A woman is anxious about her IBS diagnosis.

Diagnosis of IBS Is on the Rise, but Where’s the Relief?

Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) can often be unpredictable and difficult to manage. According to IBS In America 2019, only 7%* of survey respondents feel their IBS is controlled with their current treatment plan. Knowing that the vast majority of respondents living with IBS are having difficulty managing their symptoms, what can we learn about this population through data analysis to help improve their quality of life?

For many chronic conditions, obtaining a formal IBS diagnosis can lead to validation and relief, allowing the patient to then find an effective treatment. With IBS, however, this does not appear to be the case. Since 2017, annual IBS In America statistics have shown an increased rate of formal diagnosis from a healthcare professional year over year, with 90% of respondents reporting a formal diagnosis in 2019 up from 87% in 2018. Yet 2019 respondents are more likely than 2018 respondents to feel like they’ve tried everything possible to manage their IBS symptoms, but they’re still not controlled (41% vs. 35%). 

Data suggest that treatment decisions for people living with IBS are most influenced by potential side effects and long-term safety of the medication or treatment. Although all respondents may not have been offered treatment, only 10% have chosen to currently use a prescription IBS medication, and 21% have used one in the past; interestingly, 36% of those who have never used a prescription medication noted they’ve tried everything possible, but they’re still not controlled. 

Of those that have not used a prescription treatment, 45% noted it was not recommended by their HCP, and 32% noted some concern about potential side effects. Because potential side effects and long-term safety are top of mind for this community, many patients are using a combination of over-the-counter medications and alternative therapies, the most popular being probiotics, vitamins, and various dietary changes; yet as stated previously, more than 90% of respondents do not feel in control of their symptoms with their current treatment plan. 

As shown by the continued increase in the formal diagnosis of IBS among survey respondents, healthcare professionals are recognizing IBS as a condition that can and should be treated. But the lack of control expressed by the overwhelming majority of respondents living with the condition requires attention. Are the concerns about potential side effects and safety preventing people living with IBS from finding control?

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Visit IrritableBowelSyndome.net to learn more about Health Union’s condition-specific online health community for those living with IBS.

*Top 2 box on a 7-point scale