Stress Therapy Can Help Irritable Bowel
Don't Just Put Up With Symptoms; Treatments Can Improve Life Quality
Sept. 13, 2004 -- Tense, tired, depressed: For people with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), dealing with their disease takes a mental and physical toll. Emotional state and energy level -- not just bowel problems -- need a doctor's attention, a new study shows.
Many doctors do a poor job of addressing their patients' fears and concerns and understanding how quality of life is affected, writes lead researcher Brennan M.R. Spiegel, MD, MSHS, a gastroenterologist with The David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA and the VA Greater Los Angeles Healthcare System.
His paper appears in the latest Archives of Internal Medicine.
"There's a disconnect between how patients and doctors view the disease," Spiegel tells WebMD. "Doctors are trained to think about bowel movements -- their frequency, their color, texture. But this study shows that our patients feel we are underestimating the severity of the effect on their quality of life."
It's very clear that IBS can reduce quality of life, he adds. "It causes what we refer to as 'vital exhaustion' -- loss of vitality, sleep disorders, sexual dysfunction, feeling tired all the time, dispirited, low energy -- all the things that interfere with quality of life."
Picture of Health
Spiegel has developed a quality-of-life survey that busy doctors can use. He used the survey on 770 patients with irritable bowel syndrome. Each completed the questions: Do you feel low in energy? Nervous? Hopeless? Tense? Tire easily? Have sleep difficulties? Not interested in sex? Feel there is something seriously wrong with your body? They also answered questions related to their bowel problems.
Physical health-related quality of life is related to the severity of bowel problems, frequency, and pain, he explains. But mental health-related quality of life is related to sexuality, mood, and anxiety.
His study showed that how patients felt physically and mentally affected their quality of life. Patients who got tired easily had a 9% lower physical health-related quality-of-life score, compared with those who didn't tire easily. Patients whose symptoms flared up for a day had a 4% lower physical health-related quality-of-life score. If they had both problems, they lost 13% in quality-of-life scores.