The symptoms of IBS usually persist throughout a patient's life and may get aggravated with certain stressful life situations.
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Outcomes of post-infectious IBS
Most patients with infectious gastric enteritis recover rapidly without any residual symptoms. Some patients, however, may have persistent symptoms for many years and thus meet the criteria for a diagnosis of IBS.
Several studies have shown that the percentage of infected individuals who develop post-infectious IBS varies from 3.7% to 36% among populations.
Some of the predictors that can estimate an individual's risk of developing post-infectious IBS include:
- Being female
- Developing the infection at a younger age
- Prior anxiety or depression
- Both fever and weight loss during the acute gastroenteritis
Among these factors, the female gender, younger age, and weight loss during the episode of acute gastroenteritis are considered to be the strongest links to the development of post-infectious IBS.
Change in IBS characteristics over time
Studies have shown that nearly 63% of cases of post-infectious IBS following Campylobacter jejuni-associated enteritis eventually meet the Rome II criteria for diarrhea-predominant IBS (IBS-D).
Studies have also shown that nearly 90% of the patients with IBS-D may have had constipation-predominant IBS (IBS-C) or unsubtyped irritable bowel syndrome a few years before.
IBS and cancer
Unlike inflammatory bowel diseases (IBDs) like ulcerative colitis, IBS does not damage the inner walls of the intestines and does not cause permanent damage to the intestines. Thus, there is no association between IBS and bowel cancers.
However, bowel cancers may mimic the features of IBS; therefore, cancer needs to be ruled out during the diagnosis of IBS.
IBS and life span
IBS tends to last a lifetime and the symptoms often come and go. Many patients may have long symptom-free years interspersed between periods of severe symptoms.
IBS does not shorten the lifespan of affected individuals or lead to major life-threatening complications in most patients.