Fluctuation of gastrointestinal symptoms in the community: a 10-year longitudinal follow-up study

Aliment Pharmacol Ther. 2008 Oct 15;28(8):1013-20. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2036.2008.03813.x. Epub 2008 Jul 24.


Background: There are few studies examining the stability of gastrointestinal symptoms during prolonged periods of follow-up.

Aim: To examine this issue in individuals previously recruited into a community screening programme for Helicobacter pylori providing symptom data at study entry.

Methods: All traceable participants were sent dyspepsia and IBS questionnaires by post at 10 years. Symptom subgroups were assigned at baseline and 10-year follow-up. Individuals symptomatic at both time points who changed subgroup were compared with those symptomatic and remaining in the same subgroup.

Results: Three-thousand eight hundred and nineteen individuals provided data. At baseline, 2417 (63%) were asymptomatic or did not meet diagnostic criteria for a subgroup. Of these, 1648 (68%) remained asymptomatic at 10 years, whilst 769 (32%) reported symptoms. Of the 1402 individuals symptomatic at baseline, 404 (29%) remained in the same subgroup at 10 years, 603 (43%) changed subgroup and symptoms resolved or did not meet criteria for a subgroup in 395 (28%). Symptom stability was more likely in males [odds ratio (OR): 1.50; 99% confidence interval (CI): 0.97-2.31] and older subjects (OR per year: 1.09; 99% CI: 1.01-1.17).

Conclusion: Of those subjects symptomatic at baseline, almost three-quarters remained symptomatic at 10 years, but over 40% changed symptom subgroup.

MeSH terms

  • England / epidemiology
  • Epidemiologic Methods
  • Female
  • Gastrointestinal Diseases / epidemiology*
  • Helicobacter Infections / epidemiology*
  • Helicobacter pylori
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged