A comprehensive nationwide survey involving close to 89,000 participants revealed that the prevalence of Rome IV irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) in the U.S. stands at 6.1%, a figure higher than the previously estimated range of 4.7% to 5.3%. This study, published in Gastroenterology, highlighted that earlier U.S. studies estimating IBS prevalence were based on smaller sample sizes of around 2,000 individuals.
The survey, conducted in early 2020, aimed to determine the prevalence of IBS using Rome IV criteria, the severity of symptoms, and the healthcare-seeking behaviors of the affected individuals. The findings showed that women were more likely to have IBS, while those above 60 years had lower odds compared to the 18-29 age group. Racial and ethnic differences were also observed, with non-Hispanic Blacks, Hispanics, and non-Hispanic Asians being less likely to have IBS compared to non-Hispanic whites.
Several comorbidities, such as prior gastroenteritis, fibromyalgia, and thyroid disorder, were associated with increased odds of having IBS. Bloating, excess gas, heartburn, and nausea/vomiting were among the most commonly reported symptoms. A significant percentage of respondents sought care for their IBS symptoms, with many relying on over-the-counter treatments. However, a notable portion did not feel comfortable discussing their symptoms with healthcare providers.
Dr. Christopher V. Almario, an assistant professor of medicine at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, emphasized the importance of clinicians taking a comprehensive history to identify and manage the various symptoms experienced by IBS patients. He also suggested that further research is needed to understand the higher IBS prevalence observed, especially considering the potential impact of the COVID-19 pandemic during which the study was conducted.