Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is the most common functional gastrointestinal (GI) disorder with worldwide prevalence rates ranging generally in the area of 10–15%. Functional disorders are conditions where there is an absence of structural or biochemical abnormalities on common diagnostic tests, which could explain symptoms.
Among patients about 40% of people have mild IBS, 35% moderate IBS, and 25% severe IBS. Many people don’t recognize IBS symptoms. Yet, IBS is one of the most common disorders seen by physicians.
Not all individuals with IBS symptoms seek medical care for their symptoms. Nevertheless, there are between 2.4 and 3.5 million annual physician visits for IBS in the United States alone. IBS is the most common disorder diagnosed by gastroenterologists (doctors who specialize in digestive diseases or disorders) and accounts for up to 12% of total visits to primary care providers.
The cost to society in terms of direct medical expenses and indirect costs associated with loss of productivity and work absenteeism is considerable – estimates range from $21 billion or more annually.
A significant proportion – 35% to 40% – of individuals who report IBS in the community are male. Approximately 60% to 65% of individuals who report IBS in the community are female.
IBS is a major women’s health issue. Data reveals an increased risk of unnecessary surgery for extra-abdominal and abdominal surgery in IBS patients. For example, hysterectomy or ovarian surgery has been reported in female patients with IBS as high as 47% to 55% and has been performed more often in the IBS patient than in comparison groups.