IBS Awareness Month Encourages Research, Awareness, Improved Care for Sufferers to Provide a Voice for Millions

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Milwaukee, WI (April 1, 2003) - How would you cope with a chronic condition whose symptoms seriously impact your daily life, forcing you to give up those activities you love most? Millions of Americans make sacrifices in the quality of their lives because of a little known gastrointestinal condition called Irritable Bowel Syndrome, or IBS. This April is the seventh annual IBS Awareness Month, sponsored by the International Foundation for Functional Gastrointestinal Disorders (IFFGD), designed to draw attention to this painful, often debilitating condition.

IBS affects nearly 45 million Americans, roughly 15 percent of the population, causing abdominal pain or discomfort, and changes in bowel patterns, such as diarrhea, constipation or both. Although the exact cause is unknown, symptoms result from a disturbance in the interaction between the gut, brain and nervous system that alters regulation of functions. The chronic and recurrent symptoms of IBS can disrupt personal and professional activities, causing emotional turmoil and disarray of daily life.

"The nature of IBS symptoms makes it very difficult for sufferers to talk about," according to Dr. Douglas Drossman, a physician at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, Center for Functional Gastrointestinal and Motility Disorders. "Awareness is essential to further support research and improved care. Although IBS is very common, few people ever seek treatment for their symptoms."

IFFGD recently commissioned a nationwide survey of IBS patients to determine the prevalence and severity of symptoms they experience, finding that patients are forced to live many years with the condition, often going through several doctors, before being correctly diagnosed. Patients reported using nearly 300 different types of prescription and over-the-counter medications in attempts to find relief.

"There is a serious need for greater awareness of IBS, as well as research for improved treatment," said IFFGD Founder and President Nancy Norton. "Patients need to know that the medical community is responding to their need for a more normal, active life."

According to the survey:

  • Nearly half of research participants reported suffering five or more years with symptoms before a diagnosis of IBS was made
  • Nearly 45 percent of study participants noted severe symptoms, with another 40 percent reporting moderate pain
  • Patients described IBS symptoms as seriously impacting their daily lives - more than one-quarter of respondents said they missed work or school due to their condition
  • Of the sample, 71 percent reported two or more episodes of IBS per week, and nearly half reported daily events.

IFFGD is a nonprofit education and research organization whose mission it is to inform, assist and support those affected by gastrointestinal disorders. With an international group of experts from multiple disciplines who serve on the organization's medical advisory board, the IFFGD is a resource for anyone seeking current information about gastrointestinal disorders for both adults and children.