Irritable bowel syndrome is a functional bowel disorder with gastrointestinal symptoms (e.g. abdominal pain, straining, urgency, incomplete evacuation, nausea, and bloating) that occur alongside bowel function alterations (i.e. constipation, diarrhea, or both). Patients with irritable bowel syndrome may also experience comorbid anxiety and depression. Irritable bowel syndrome is common, with a prevalence estimated between 3% and 28%, affecting patient health and quality of life. Patients with moderate or severe irritable bowel syndrome generally seek medical care, whereas those with milder symptoms may choose self-management. Most patients with irritable bowel syndrome receive outpatient care, but irritable bowel syndrome-related hospitalizations do occur. The pathophysiology of irritable bowel syndrome is multifactorial (i.e. genetics, immune components, changes in the gut microbiota, disturbances in physiologic stress response systems, and psychosocial factors). Management of irritable bowel syndrome can include lifestyle changes, dietary interventions, counseling, psychologic medication, and agents that affect gastrointestinal motility. A number of therapies have emerged in recent years with clinical trial data demonstrating efficacy and safety for patients with irritable bowel syndrome, including agents that target gastrointestinal motility (i.e. linaclotide), gastrointestinal opioid receptors (i.e. asimadoline, eluxadoline), and gut microbiota (i.e. rifaximin). Linaclotide has been shown to significantly improve stool frequency and abdominal pain compared with placebo in constipation-predominant irritable bowel syndrome (number needed to treat, 5.1). Asimadoline shows efficacy in patients with moderate-to-severe irritable bowel syndrome-related pain. Rifaximin provided adequate relief of global irritable bowel syndrome symptoms versus placebo for a significantly greater percentage of patients with diarrhea-predominant irritable bowel syndrome (p < 0.001). Management that encompasses all aspects of irritable bowel syndrome (gastrointestinal symptoms) and comorbid psychologic symptoms (e.g. anxiety or depression) is important for improving overall patient health and well-being.
- functional bowel disorder
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