Patients with irritable bowel syndrome experience symptoms that can wreak havoc with their day-to-day lives, but people suffer along for at least a year before seeking medical attention.
That’s the finding from an American Gastroenterological Association survey of more than 3,200 patients and 300 physicians.
The survey also found that depending on what type of IBS it is, patients experience the condition in very different ways. Both IBS patients with constipation and IBS patients with diarrhea have abdominal pain. They say they never know whether they will experience symptoms on any given day.
But patients with constipation are more likely than those with diarrhea to self-medicate with over-the-counter products, feel depressed or helpless about their condition, and feel self-conscious about their appearance.
People with IBS-diarrhea, on the other hand, are more likely than those with IBS-constipation to avoid situations where they won’t be able to access a bathroom and to have difficulty planning their day because of their inability to predict a flare-up of symptoms.
What to do
The American Gastroenterological Association recommends that you seek medical help early rather than enduring pain and discomfort.
Have a detailed discussion with your doctor about your symptoms and what you’ve done to address them. Persist in seeking help from a doctor if your symptoms fail to respond to treatment.
Monica J. Smith is a medical journalist specializing in gastrointestinal health. She has written extensively for General Surgery News, Clinical Oncology News, and Gastroenterology & Endoscopy News. Given her interest in well-being, it was only natural for her to focus largely on issues related to the digestive system; as Hippocrates noted, good health starts in the gut.