A new study, published in the latest issue of the UEG Journal reveals that 10 percent of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) patients are misdiagnosed with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), and in 3 percent of cases the misdiagnosis can persist for five or more years. The case-controlled study, conducted in the UK, assessed the proportion of patients with IBS recorded prior to the IBD diagnosis to reveal the alarming statistics.
“IBS has been estimated to affect at least 10 percent of the population in Europe and it causes distressing symptoms that disrupt normal life.” Said leading IBD researcher and United European Gastroenterology (UEG) spokesperson Dr. Michael Scharl. “We have known for some time that there are similarities between symptoms of IBS and IBD, but when it comes to diagnosis and treatment, this differs greatly.”
“Misdiagnosis is understandable, as many symptoms such as diarrhea, abdominal cramping and pain are common to both. The specific alarm symptoms for IBD, such as bloody stool, weight loss or fever, are often absent in IBD patients in the initial phase of their disease. However, increased use of fecal calprotectin testing would help doctors distinguish between inflammatory bowel diseases, such as Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis and non-inflammatory bowel diseases, such as irritable bowel syndrome.”
The initial misdiagnosis of IBD has serious consequences for patients, in particular those with Crohn’s disease, since delays in diagnosis is correlated with an increased risk of bowel stenosis and Crohn’s disease-related intestinal surgery. Considering that the misdiagnosis of IBD might have severe consequences for a patient’s life, the UEG is calling for increased efforts to be undertaken to screen symptomatic IBS patients for IBD. Screening tests for intestinal inflammation should be included in the work-up of all new patients presenting with diarrhea and pain.