Epidemiology And Etiology

IBS is one of the most common disorders seen in primary care and the most common reason for referral to gastroenterol-ogists. Although between 15% and 20% of Americans suffer from IBS, only about one-quarter of those affected seek medical attention. The associated costs to society are significant, and the recurrent nature of IBS contributes to these costs through missed workdays, inattention on the job, and high consumption of health services.12

In the United States, IBS affects women about twice as often as men. However, this may reflect a woman's tendency to seek medical care more often than a man's. IBS can occur at any age but is most common between 20 and 50 years; onset beyond age 60 is rare. However, prevalence for older adults is the same as for young persons. Prevalence is similar in Caucasians and African Americans but may be lower in people of Hispanic origin. A genetic link is unproven, but IBS seems more common in certain families.

There is a strong association between emotional distress and IBS. Psychosocial trauma (e.g., a history of abuse, recent death of a close relative or friend, or divorce) is more likely to be found in patients presenting with IBS than in the general population. An increased prevalence of psychiatric disorders such as anxiety, depression, personality disorders, and somatization (psychological distress expressed as physical symptoms) occurs among adult patients with IBS. Alcohol consumption and smoking

have not been shown to be risk factors for developing IBS.

Some people show first evidence of IBS after contracting gastroenteritis, which has led to speculation about whether infection heightens GI tract susceptibility. Women with IBS may have symptoms triggered by menstrual periods.

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