For Immediate Release

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MILWAUKEE, WI (April 8, 2004) - More than 13 percent of participants in a national survey released today indicated they suffer from symptoms suggesting Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), yet only a fraction of this group – less than one out of five – said they have been diagnosed with the disease.

This finding is significant, according to Nancy Norton, president and founder of the International Foundation for Functional Gastrointestinal Disorders (IFFGD), which conducted the survey of 1,000 U.S. adults. "IBS is the most common diagnosis made by gastroenterologists and one of the most common disorders seen by primary care doctors," she said. "Yet a vast number of people who suffer from IBS may not be getting the medical care they need."

IBS can have a major impact on those living with the disease. Eighty-five percent of respondents who suffer from symptoms suggesting IBS describe their symptoms as bothersome, and nearly 30 percent report symptoms that at least weekly affect their ability to continue their normal routine.

"People who think they are experiencing the symptoms of IBS, and are impaired in their quality of life by these symptoms, should see their doctors," said Emeran Mayer, M.D., professor, Departments of Medicine, Physiology, Psychiatry and Biobehavioral Sciences, David Geffen School of Medicine at the University of California at Los Angeles; and member, IFFGD Advisory Board. "Because they're unaware of the condition, many people experiencing the symptoms of IBS don't seek medical care. They need to know more about IBS and that medical science has made great strides in diagnosing and treating it."

Awareness of IBS Impacts Care

According to the survey, only 66 percent of all respondents have heard of "Irritable Bowel Syndrome" and only 17 percent indicated they understood what it means.

"This lack of understanding of IBS may be why many of those who are symptomatic have not received a diagnosis," said Norton. "People may not realize that their symptoms add up to IBS, even though most of them may have heard of the disease. They need to see their doctor so they can receive optimal care."

Know Your IBS Symptoms

It is estimated that 10 to 15 percent of Americans have IBS, which is characterized by at least 12 weeks out of a 12-month period of abdominal pain or discomfort and a change in bowel pattern. Symptoms may occur over a single long period or in several shorter bouts. The abdominal pain or discomfort is accompanied by at least two additional symptoms:

  • Relief of abdominal pain or discomfort through bowel movements
  • Onset of symptoms is associated with more or less frequent bowel movements-diarrhea or constipation
  • Onset of symptoms is associated with a change in appearance of bowel movements About IFFGD

IFFGD is a non-profit education and research organization that addresses issues surrounding life with functional GI and motility disorders. IFFGD helps improve care by enhancing awareness, educating and promoting research into treatments and cures for GI disorders. IFFGD was formed in 1991 by foundation president and founder, Nancy Norton.

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