Aim: In this study of patients with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), we evaluated the relationship between patient-rated severity of IBS and patients' physical and psychological symptoms, health care resource use and quality of life.
Methods: One hundred and twenty-six patients diagnosed with IBS were administered a series of questionnaires, including the Bowel Symptom Checklist, the Symptom Checklist-90-R (a psychological symptom checklist), the IBSQOL (a disease-specific quality of life instrument), the SF-36 (a general health status instrument), and a health resource utilization assessment that measured health care use, time loss from work, impact on productivity, and days worked with symptoms.
Results: No relationship was found between IBS severity and gastrointestinal symptoms, except for a feeling of unpassed stool. IBS severity was also not related to psychological symptom severity. Direct traditional indicators of resource use (e.g. physician visits, hospital admissions and emergency room visits) were not significantly associated by severity level; however, indirect measures of resource use (e.g. number of days with pain, productivity and number of bed days) were related to severity. Quality of life was clearly associated with perceived IBS severity. Patients who rated themselves as very severe reported the lowest scores and had the poorest health for all quality of life dimensions measured.
Conclusions: These findings suggest that perceived IBS severity is defined by the limitations the disease imposes, rather that by the symptoms. Patients with reduced productivity and decreased functioning for most of the quality of life indicators were those who rated their IBS as very severe.