The goal of IBS management should be to improve overall symptoms, including altered stool frequency and consistency, abdominal pain and discomfort, bloating, and quality of life.
For years, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) has been a thorn in the side of patients, physicians, and pharmacists.
Defined as a gastrointestinal disorder characterized by recurring symptoms of abdominal pain, bloating, and altered bowel function in the absence of structural, inflammatory, or biochemical abnormalities, IBS is difficult to diagnose and often doesn’t respond to treatment.
For patients, learning how to manage the condition can be an ordeal. However, findings from a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine may offer hope for those who suffer from IBS.
Research has shown that IBS patients make more visits to physicians, undergo more diagnostic tests, are prescribed more medications, miss more workdays, have lower work productivity, are hospitalized more frequently, and account for greater overall direct health care costs than patients without the condition, according to the American College of Gastroenterology.
All of this can have a severe impact on quality of life, making it all the more critical that the condition is properly treated.
The problem is that IBS is a symptom complex. Because no reliable markers have been identified, the effects of pharmacotherapy are typically assessed by asking patients to report whether their symptoms were adequately relieved.
IBS, as many clinicians can attest, can be challenging.
Current pharmacologic treatments—which include antispasmodics, antidepressants, antidiarrheals, serotonin reuptake inhibitors, probiotics, antibiotics, over-the-counter supplements, laxatives, complementary and alternative treatments, and lifestyle changes—are aimed at relieving the predominant GI symptom. The goal, however, should be to improve overall symptoms, including altered stool frequency and consistency, abdominal pain and discomfort, bloating, and quality of life.