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What causes coeliac disease?

It’s not yet known why people develop coeliac disease, but factors associated with an increased risk of developing this disease are outlined below:

Family history

Coeliac disease runs in families. If you have a parent or sibling with coeliac disease your risk of also developing the condition is about 10 times higher than people who do not have a family history.

Coeliac disease is also strongly associated the presence of certain genes called HLA DQ2 and HLA DQ8. Either one or both of these genes are present in almost every person with coeliac disease. These genes are also very common. Around 30% of the population carries either one or both of them. This suggests there is a further trigger needed for coeliac disease to develop.

Environmental factors

Environmental factors may trigger coeliac disease at any age in people with a genetic predisposition to the disease. Factors thought to play a role include a previous gastrointestinal infection (such as a rotavirus infection), or a person’s diet during early childhood.

Other health conditions

Health conditions associated with an increased risk of developing coeliac disease include:

Sources: Coeliac Australia (Coeliac disease), Gastroenterological Society of Australia (Coeliac disease, PDF - document), NHS Choices, UK (Coeliac disease (Causes))

Last reviewed: August 2015

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