The 183,000 Australians who suffer from coeliac disease without knowing it have been described as "walking time bombs" by a national health body, who are calling for better diagnosis of the condition.
Coeliac Australia said 80 per cent of the 230,000 believed to have the disease have yet to be diagnosed, and to mark Coeliac Awareness Week, it urged general practitioners and the general public to be more aware of its symptoms.
Chair of the peak body's medical board, Dr Jason Tye-Din, said undiagnosed coeliac disease is associated with some forms of cancer such as lymphoma, and with an increased risk of osteoporosis and premature death.
Symptoms include lethargy, stomach pain, bloating and weight loss, and the only treatment option for sufferers is to eliminate foods containing gluten, such as bread and pasta.
"The real concerning fact is that four out of five people with coeliac disease remain undiagnosed and are, in effect, like walking time bombs, because they have a medical condition that can cause some serious long-term complications," Dr Tye-Din said in Wednesday's statement.