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Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) Prognosis

By Dr Ananya Mandal, MD

Nearly one half of all patients who suffered from abdominal pain in childhood have been seen to suffer from irritable bowel syndrome after three decades.

The symptoms usually persist throughout life and may get aggravated with certain stressful life situations.

Outcome of post infectious irritable bowel syndrome

Most patients with infectious gastric enteritis recover rapidly without any residual symptoms. Some patients, however, may have persistent symptoms for many years and meet the criteria for a diagnosis of irritable bowel syndrome.

Several studies have shown that the percentage of infected individuals who develop post-infectious irritable bowel syndrome vary from 3.7% to 36% among populations.

Some of the predictors that can estimate the risk of developing post infectious irritable bowel syndrome include:

  • being a female
  • developing the infection at a younger age
  • prior anxiety or depression
  • both fever and weight loss during the acute gastroenteritis

Among these, female gender, younger age and weight loss during the episode of acute gastroenteritis are seen to be the strongest links to development of post infectious irritable bowel syndrome.

Change in irritable bowel syndrome characteristics over time

Studies have shown that nearly 63% of cases of post infectious irritable bowel syndrome following Campylobacter jejuni-associated enteritis eventually meet the Rome II criteria for diarrhea-predominant irritable bowel syndrome.

Studies have also shown that nearly 90% of the patients with diarrhea-predominant irritable bowel syndrome may have had constipation-predominant irritable bowel syndrome or unsubtyped irritable bowel syndrome a few years before.

Irritable bowel syndrome and cancer

Unlike inflammatory bowel diseases like ulcerative colitis, irritable bowel disease does not damage the inner walls of the intestines and does not cause permanent damage to the intestines. Thus there is no association between irritable bowel syndrome and bowel cancers.

However bowel cancers may mimic the features of irritable bowel syndrome and cancer needs to be ruled out while diagnosing irritable bowel syndrome.

Irritable bowel syndrome and life span

Irritable bowel syndrome tends to last a life time and the symptoms often come and go. Many patients may have long symptom-free years interspersed between periods of severe symptoms.

Irritable bowel syndrome does not shorten lifespan or lead to major life threatening complications in most patients.

Reviewed by , BA Hons (Cantab)

Further Reading

Last Updated: Mar 24, 2013

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