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Prevalence, patterns and impact of irritable bowel syndrome

Irritable bowel syndrome is common with major effects on lifestyle and health care, find researchers in the latest issue of Alimentary Pharmacology and Therapeutics.

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In this study, a team of researchers determined the prevalence, symptom pattern, and impact of the irritable bowel syndrome, in 8 European countries.

The team performed a community survey of 41,984 individuals using quota sampling and random digit telephone dialing. They identified individuals with diagnosed irritable bowel syndrome or meeting diagnostic criteria, and performed in-depth interviews.

The researchers found that the overall prevalence of irritable bowel syndrome was 12%. Of these, 10% had current symptoms, 5% had been formally diagnosed, and a further 3%, 4% and 7% met the Rome II, Rome I or Manning criteria, respectively.

Bowel habit classification varied by criteria. The team determined that 63% had an "alternating" bowel habit by Rome II, compared with 21% by self-report.

69% reported symptoms lasting for 1 hour, twice daily, for 7 days a month.
Alimentary Pharmacology and Therapeutics

Overall, 69% reported symptoms lasting for 1 hour, twice daily, for 7 days a month.

Irritable bowel syndrome sufferers reported more peptic ulcer (13% versus 6%), reflux (21% versus 7%) and appendectomy (17% versus 11%).

Researchers found that 90% of patients had consulted in primary care and 17% in hospital. 69% had used medication.

Furthermore, irritable bowel syndrome substantially interfered with lifestyle and caused absenteeism.

Dr Hungin's team concluded, "Irritable bowel syndrome is common with major effects on lifestyle and health care".

"The majority of cases are undiagnosed and the prevalence varies strikingly between countries."

"Diagnostic criteria are associated with varying prevalences and bowel habit sub-types."

"This limits their utility in clinical practice and the transferability of research findings using them."

Aliment Pharmacol Ther 2003; 17(5): 643-50
17 March 2003

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