Background and aims: As part of a public education program, the Hong Kong Society of Gastrointestinal Motility studied the prevalence of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) in the community, which was based on the recently published Rome II criteria. The distribution of diarrhea or constipation-predominant IBS subtypes, the prevalence of bowel symptoms and the predictors of health-care seeking were also studied.
Methods: Among 1797 randomly selected respondents, 1000 successful telephone interviews (56%) were conducted from August 2000 to December 2000, using a validated questionnaire in Chinese that looked into demographic data and various bowel symptoms during the past year.
Results: The 12-month prevalence of IBS as defined by the Rome II criteria in Hong Kong was 6.6%. The female to male ratio was 1.3:1, but this ratio was the same in the control group. The distribution of IBS patients into diarrhea predominant, constipation predominant, and non-specific subtypes was 27, 17 and 56%, respectively. The predominant symptom in the IBS group was pain (54.5%), followed by urgency (15%), abdominal distension (15%) and diarrhea (11%). Forty-seven percent of IBS patients sought medical attention and only 21% of them knew that they had IBS. Moderate to severe pain severity (odds ratio 3.7, 95% CI 1.02-13) and mucus in stool (odds ratio 3.57, 95% CI 1.18-10.7) were associated with health-care seeking in univariate analysis. The prevalence of bowel symptoms such as urgency, straining, feeling of incomplete defecation, mucus in stool and abdominal distension ranged from 11 to 41%.
Conclusion: The prevalence of IBS in Hong Kong was 6.6%, and the female to male ratio was similar to the control group. The majority was of non-specific IBS subtype. Gross underdiagnosis (21%) by Western practitioners was noted.
Copyright 2002 Blackwell Publishing Asia Pty Ltd