Background Coeliac disease affects about 1% of the population, with the majority being undetected. As a consequence, there have been calls for the introduction of screening. Before screening is given serious consideration, it is important to assess how acceptable early diagnoses and treatment would be.
Aim To assess patients’ views as to the diagnosis and treatment of disease.
Methods Coeliac disease patients who had taken a gluten-free diet for at least 12 months (mean 60 months) were mailed a questionnaire. Coeliac patients presenting with typical classical symptoms were compared with those diagnosed without such symptoms.
Results Overall, 83% (147/177) of coeliac patients returned the questionnaires. Two-thirds (68%, 101/147) reported that their dietary restrictions reduced their enjoyment of food; 46% (68/147) believed their food cost them more and estimated this to be an extra £10 (€16) per week. Of those reporting greater cost, 31 (21%) said this was a problem for them. Half (54%, 80/147) reported doing things they enjoyed less often because of their diet, with the most common activity sacrificed being dining out (n = 65). In spite of these findings, 81% (119/147) reported being pleased that they were diagnosed, with 66% (59/89) of cases with classical symptoms wishing they had been diagnosed earlier compared with 45% (23/51) of those without such symptoms (χ2 = 6.0, P < .05). In contrast, 27% (14/51) of coeliacs diagnosed without classical symptoms regretted being diagnosed with their condition compared with 10% (9/89) of those with classical symptoms (χ2 = 7.1, P < .01).
Conclusions Even after several years of a gluten-free diet, many patients with coeliac disease regard it as a substantial burden, with a quarter of screen detected patients reporting regret at being diagnosed. Our findings question how acceptable screening for coeliac disease would be in people with minimal or no symptoms.