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Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) Health Center

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IBS: What It's Like

Irritable Bowel Syndrome Pain Bad, Stigma Worse

IBS: Uncertainty, Loss Add to Suffering continued...

All of this leads to emotional responses: fear, shame, embarrassment, and degradation. A big issue, Drossman says, is that patients refrain from sex because of fear of incontinence or other symptoms -- thus straining their relationship with their spouse.

To get a measure of the extent of this suffering, the Drossman team's survey asked IBS patients what they'd give to be free of their symptoms. On average, they said they'd give up a fourth of their remaining years of life.

There isn't a cure for IBS. But treatment can be effective. Drossman says that 90% of the treatment is helping people understand their condition and come to feel they can manage it.

"The feelings of fear, distress, and frustration may be generic and affect all people with IBS, but how people deal with those feelings varies," he says. "In addition to all the disease management aspects, we focus on understanding where the patients are, validating their experience, and helping them move forward. It is a focus on the person with the condition, and not on an organ."

Drossman and colleagues report their findings in the July issues of Digestive Diseases and Sciences and the Journal of Clinical Gastroenterology.

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