April 14, 2016
2 min read

AGA survey results highlight physical, emotional burden of IBS

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The American Gastroenterological Association has announced that a new analysis of data from its IBS in America survey reveals new information about the physical and emotional experiences of patients with irritable bowel syndrome.

“The data from this analysis serve as an important reminder that IBS is a very real disease and that abdominal and bowel symptoms have a very real impact on patients’ lives,” AGA President Michael Camilleri, MD, AGAF, said in a press release. “The impact can manifest itself in a variety of ways — physically, socially and emotionally — so it is imperative that patients explain, and physicians seek to understand, each individual’s experience so that they can recommend appropriate treatments.”

Michael Camilleri

The survey was completed by more than 3,200 individuals with IBS and 300 physicians from September 14 to October 29, 2015, making it “the most comprehensive IBS survey” ever performed, according to a press release. A previous analysis of the results highlighted the significant daily burden of IBS and the need for improved patient–physician communication.

The new analysis revealed that both patients with constipation- and diarrhea-predominant IBS experience recurring abdominal pain and other symptoms that can interfere with work or school almost half of the weekdays each month. About half of both IBS-C (53%) and IBS-D (50%) patients said they experienced “extremely” or “very” bothersome symptoms, the most bothersome of which were abdominal pain and altered bowel habits (constipation or urgency). Moreover, respondents said their symptoms interfered with work or school 9 days per month on average, almost two-thirds said their symptoms prevent them from enjoying daily activities, and 75% and 73% of IBS-C and -D patients, respectively, said frustration was their most common emotion.

Conversely, many emotional and social challenges differ between IBS-D and -C patients.

“The emotional experience of IBS-D is characterized by an inability to predict symptoms that cause embarrassment and ties patients to the bathroom,” according to the press release.

Among the respondents with IBS-D, 47% said they had little or no ability to predict their daily symptoms (vs. 39% of those with IBS-C), 81% said they avoid situations without a bathroom nearby (vs. 63%), and 65% said they had difficulty planning things because of their unpredictable symptoms (vs. 57%). Following frustration, their most common emotions were self-consciousness and embarrassment.

For IBS-C patients, “the emotional experience ... is characterized by attempts to self-treat with numerous over-the-counter products, leading to dissatisfaction, frustration and depression,” according to the press release.

IBS-C patients said they tried more OTC products before seeing a doctor compared with IBS-D patients, and 55% vs. 42%, respectively, were taking at least two types of OTCs per month. Feelings of depression more than half of the days or almost every day in the past month were reported by 32% of IBS-C vs. 26% IBS-D patients, 76% vs. 68% said they don’t feel normal or like themselves, 64% vs. 54% said they feel self-conscious about how they look, and 64% vs. 55% said their symptoms have caused them to avoid sex.

Based on these new findings, the AGA recommends that patients talk to their physicians about treatment options early, share specific examples of the emotional and physical impacts of their symptoms with their physicians, and inform their physicians of recurrent symptoms despite treatment.

Disclosures: The survey was financially supported by Ironwood and Allergan, conducted by GfK and commissioned by the AGA.

Reference: AGA. IBS in America. http://ibsinamerica.gastro.org. Accessed April 13, 2016.