Objectives: Quality of life is reduced in inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). Whether or not this is true in IBD patients in long-standing remission is unclear. Symptoms compatible with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) are common in IBD patients in remission. The importance of psychological factors in this process is a matter of controversy.
Methods: Forty-three patients with ulcerative colitis (UC) and 40 with Crohn's disease (CD), who had been in remission for at least 1 yr according to laboratory parameters and clinical and endoscopical appearance, were included. These patients completed four different self-administered questionnaires, evaluating GI symptoms, anxiety, depression, and psychological general well-being. The two patient groups were compared with the general population, and within-group comparisons in psychometric scores were made between patients with and without IBS-like symptoms.
Results: The psychological well-being in IBD patients in long-standing remission was similar to that of the general population, despite the presence of more severe GI symptoms. CD patients reported more psychosocial dysfunction, reduced well-being, and GI symptoms than UC patients. Thirty-three percent of UC patients and 57% of CD patients had IBS-like symptoms. The group with IBS-like symptoms (both UC and CD) had higher levels of anxiety and depression and more reduced well-being than those without. Anxiety and reduced vitality were found to be independent predictors for IBS-like symptoms in these patients.
Conclusion: The prevalence of IBS-like symptoms in IBD patients in long-standing remission is two to three times higher than that in the normal population. Psychological factors seem to be of importance in this process. However, as a group IBD patients in remission demonstrate psychological well-being comparable to that of the general population.