IBS is a chronic condition of the digestive tract that causes abdominal pain, bloating, altered bowel habits (constipation, diarrhea, or altering back and forth between these two), fatigue, and nausea. Once considered a diagnosis of exclusion - aka you were told you have IBS when they ruled out other things like Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD), colon cancer, or diverticulitis - there are now set diagnostic criteria for IBS known as the Rome III criteria.
|Rome III Criteria for IBS|
So what are some of the facts about IBS? Let's learn. Because I'm a research nerd, here are some factoids about IBS. There's a test next Tuesday.
- IBS results in a $20 billion economic burden, annually. This is both from direct medical costs and lost work productivity. This is also second only to the common cold.
- Women are 1.5 times more likely to have IBS than men.
- While not part of the Rome III criteria, 76% of people with IBS report abdominal bloating as a symptom.
- Our digestive systems have their own nervous system, called the enteric nervous system, which contains 95% of the body's serotonin. Serotonin is a chemical in the body that's implicated in mood and an overproduction of serotonin can cause IBS with diarrhea while too little can cause IBS with constipation.
- People with IBS with constipation spend around $11,000 annual on health care costs related to their condition, compared to $4,800 for healthy controls Of that $11,000, 78% is for medical services and 22% for prescription medication.
- People with IBS feel to a greater degree processes such as hunger, fullness, passage of food, and bowel sounds than those without the condition, and this hypersensitivity is thought to be a main contributor to abdominal pain in IBS.
- In a study in Canada, people with IBS reported 5.6% work absenteeism, 31.4% presenteeism (being at work but not really working), and 34.6% overall work productivity loss, which is equivalent to 13.8 hours lost productivity per 40-hour workweek. Similar findings occur in the U.S.
- Many people with IBS report a negative effect on their mood, with 30% experiencing significant anxiety, 28% reporting depression, and 15% having panic disorder.
- Finally, IBS and IBD are not interchangeable terms. I don't know how many times I've seen "Irritable Bowel Disease" and "Inflammatory Bowel Syndrome" out there, including on reputable news websites. Yes, they're both diseases of the digestive tract with similar symptoms but very different physiology and treatments.