Background: Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a common, chronic disorder that reduces patients' quality-of-life. Although highly prevalent, little is known about patients' understanding of this disorder.
Aim: To evaluate the knowledge, fears and concerns of IBS patients.
Methods: Seven hundred thirty-six IBS patients (Rome II criteria) were eligible for inclusion in this prospective study. Each patient received a validated questionnaire to evaluate knowledge, attitudes and fears regarding IBS.
Results: A total of 261 of 664 potential respondents completed the questionnaire (39.3%). 83% of respondents were women, with a mean age of 53.7 years, and mean duration of symptoms of 14.2 years. Patients frequently believed that IBS develops because of anxiety (80.5%), dietary factors (75.1%) and depression (63.2%). Few respondents (28.7%) recognized that abdominal pain is the cardinal symptom of IBS, and 40.6% stated that colonoscopy can diagnose IBS. One in seven patients stated that IBS turns into cancer, and 29.9% noted that IBS increases the risk of inflammatory bowel disease.
Conclusions: Many IBS patients have significant misconceptions regarding the nature of their disease and its prognosis. An overwhelming majority of IBS patients believe that anxiety, dietary factors and depression cause IBS. These findings are discordant with physicians' views and practices and highlight the need for patient-oriented educational programs.