Irritable bowel syndrome and chronic pelvic pain: a population-based study

J Clin Gastroenterol. 2010 Nov-Dec;44(10):696-701. doi: 10.1097/MCG.0b013e3181d7a368.


Background: Women with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) frequently report chronic pelvic pain, however, it is still unanswered whether these are truly separate entities. IBS negatively impacts on quality of life, but the impact of IBS on sexual function is not clear.

Goals: We aimed to (1) describe the impact of IBS on sexual function, and (2) evaluate the association between pelvic pain and IBS, and in particular identify if there are unique characteristics of the overlap group.

Study: The Talley Bowel Disease Questionnaire was mailed to an age- and gender-stratified random sample of 1031 Olmsted County, Minnesota residents aged 30 to 64 years. Manning (at least 2 of 6 positive) and Rome criteria (Rome I and modified Rome III) were used to identify IBS. Pelvic pain was assessed by a single item. Somatization was assessed by the valid somatic symptom checklist.

Results: Overall 648 (69%) of 935 eligible participants responded (mean age 52 years, 52% female). Self-reported sexual dysfunction was rare (0.9%; 95% CI 0.3-2.0%). Among women, 20% (95% CI 16-24%) reported pain in the pelvic region; 40% of those with pelvic pain met IBS by Manning, or Rome criteria. IBS and pelvic pain occurred together more commonly than expected by chance (P<0.01). The overall somatization score (and specifically the depression and dizziness item scores) predicted IBS-pelvic pain overlap versus either IBS alone or pelvic pain alone.

Conclusion: In a subset with pelvic pain, there is likely to be a common underlying psychologic process (somatization) that explains the link to IBS.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Chi-Square Distribution
  • Chronic Disease
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Female
  • Health Surveys
  • Humans
  • Irritable Bowel Syndrome / diagnosis
  • Irritable Bowel Syndrome / epidemiology*
  • Irritable Bowel Syndrome / psychology
  • Logistic Models
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Minnesota / epidemiology
  • Odds Ratio
  • Pain Measurement
  • Pelvic Pain / diagnosis
  • Pelvic Pain / epidemiology*
  • Pelvic Pain / psychology
  • Prevalence
  • Sexual Dysfunction, Physiological / epidemiology
  • Surveys and Questionnaires