Beds, Herts & Bucks

Buckinghamshire mother's 'relief' after son diagnosed as coeliac

Helen and Dylan Walsh Image copyright Helen Walsh
Image caption Helen Walsh's son Dylan suffered a range of symptoms before being diagnosed with coeliac disease

A woman whose son was constantly sick for a year has spoken of her "shock and relief" when he was finally diagnosed as coeliac.

Helen Walsh said Dylan, six, began losing weight from the age of one, vomited nightly and "became a shell of his former happy self".

Mrs Walsh, from Wing, Buckinghamshire, backs a Coeliac UK campaign calling for more testing for the disease.

Coeliacs cannot eat gluten often found in wheat, barley and rye.

Mrs Walsh, 40, said Dylan was a very energetic boy when, aged 16 months, he had a bout of gastroenteritis in 2013.

She said she believed in hindsight this illness activated his gene for coeliac disease.

Afterwards he had regular earaches, chest infections as well as vomiting daily, Mrs Walsh said.

"He became pale, was constantly tired and lost a lot of weight, meaning he was officially "failing to thrive" for a boy of his age and height," she said.

Mrs Walsh said she was constantly told by health professionals Dylan "was fine" and it was only when a consultant ran some general blood tests they found out he had the disease.

"It was a shock but an enormous relief. No-one in our families had ever had coeliac disease," she said.

Image copyright Helen Walsh
Image caption Dylan with his sisters Ivy (centre), who is also coeliac and Hazel, who will be tested for the disease

Mrs Walsh has two other children, Ivy, aged four, who was diagnosed as coeliac six months ago and Hazel, who is 22 months old and will be tested in the next year.

As a baby Ivy's bloods did not show the condition and, unlike Dylan who had lots of diarrhoea and illnesses, she had no symptoms apart from constipation.

"The symptoms can present so differently, doctors and families need to be more aware as the damage being done to the gut is still taking place," said Mrs Walsh.

What is coeliac disease?

  • An autoimmune disease in which the body's immune system damages the lining of the small bowel when the protein gluten is eaten
  • Symptoms include diarrhoea, constipation, anaemia, vomiting, stomach cramps and fatigue
  • If undiagnosed, untreated coeliac disease increases the risk of developing other health issues, such as osteoporosis and poor growth
  • Coeliac disease affects 1 in 100 children and up to 3 in 100 in some other European countries
  • Coeliac disease is not an allergy or intolerance and is treated by following a gluten-free diet for life
  • Source: Coeliac UK

In its current campaign, the charity is highlighting that one in four people with coeliac disease were previously misdiagnosed with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).

It also believes half a million people in the UK are living with coeliac disease without knowing it.

Norma McGough of Coeliac UK said, NHS guidelines "clearly states that anyone with IBS symptoms should be tested for coeliac disease before a diagnosis of IBS is made."

The average time it takes for someone to get a diagnosis is 13 years from the onset of symptoms, added the charity.

"By which time, they may already be suffering with added complications caused by the disease," said Ms McGough.

Image copyright Helen Walsh
Image caption Helen Walsh with Hazel, Ivy and Dylan

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