The number of Lothian youngsters struck down with the digestive disorder coeliac disease has more than doubled in the last five years.
Experts trawled through patient data from 168 children under 16 who were diagnosed at Edinburgh’s Sick Kids hospital between 2010 and 2014.
Some 30 per cent were diagnosed in 2014, compared with 12.5 per cent in 2010, the team will reveal at a paediatric conference in the Capital today.
Coeliac disease is where the body’s immune system attacks itself in reaction to gluten from wheat, barley and rye, and the only way to treat it is by cutting gluten from your diet.
Lead author Dr Peter Gillett, a member of the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, who is based at the Sick Kids, said the results highlighted a “concerning” rise in cases but he warned that increased awareness and a lower threshold for tests could be contributing to the higher rates of diagnosis.
He said: “Coeliac disease can lead to growth failure, delayed puberty and dental problems in children if not diagnosed early.
“That it is why it is imperative we do more to identify cases of the disease early and help prevent these potential long-term problems.”
The experts found there has been a continual rise in the number of cases since 2010, starting with 21 cases in 2010, moving to 34 in 2012 and 49 by 2014.
Myles Fitt, Scotland lead for the charity Coeliac UK, said: “For many parents, undiagnosed coeliac disease in children is a very worrying time as they watch their child being ill with often no clear understanding why.
“Raising awareness of the symptoms among parents is vital to ensure signs of the condition in children are picked up and acted upon quickly to prevent ill-health.”
Dorte Al-Gailani, of Linlithgow, became concerned when her daughter Nina started complaining about constantly having a sore stomach in 2011.
Doctors quickly diagnosed Nina, then six, with coeliac disease and she had to switch to a strict gluten-free diet.
Ms Al-Gailani, 41, who also has the condition, said: “It has changed life a lot in two ways, as she can now get up in morning without being tired all the time and she doesn’t have stomach aches.
“I think she can concentrate better at school. But is it hard as we have to eat completely different things, so with school it can be difficult.”
Former professional chef Lucinda Bruce-Gardyne created a gluten-free retail empire from her Trinity kitchen, when she launched Genius Foods in 2009 after she had struggled to find good quality products for her gluten intolerant son.