Health problems associated with irritable bowel syndrome: analysis of a primary care registry

Clevers E1,2, Vaes B3,4, Henrard S3,4, Goderis G3, Tack J1, Törnblom H2, Simrén M2,5, Van Oudenhove L1. Aliment Pharmacol Ther. 2018 May;47(10):1349-1357. doi: 10.1111/apt.14612. Epub 2018 Mar 24.

Author information

1 Translational Research Center for Gastrointestinal Disorders (TARGID), University of Leuven, Leuven, Belgium.

2 Department of Internal Medicine & Clinical Nutrition, Institute of Medicine, Sahlgrenska Academy, University of Gothenburg, Gothenburg, Sweden.

3 Department of Public Health and Primary Care, Universiteit Leuven (KU Leuven), Leuven, Belgium.

4 Institute of Health and Society, Université catholique de Louvain (UCL), Brussels, Belgium.

5 Center for Functional Gastrointestinal and Motility Disorders, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, NC, USA.


BACKGROUND: Associations between irritable bowel syndrome and other health problems have been described, but comprehensive reports are missing, especially in primary care.

AIMS: To investigate which health problems are associated with irritable bowel syndrome, how they cluster together and when they are typically diagnosed relative to irritable bowel syndrome.

METHODS: We used Intego, a general practice registry in Flanders, Belgium. Patients with an irritable bowel syndrome diagnosis (n = 13 701) were matched with controls without gastrointestinal diagnosis and controls with organic gastrointestinal disease. Long-term prevalences of 680 symptoms and diagnoses were compared between patients and controls. Results were summarised using functional enrichment analysis and visualised in a network and we calculated incidence rate ratios in the 10 years before and after the irritable bowel syndromediagnosis for the network's key components.

RESULTS: Various symptoms and infections, but not neoplasms, were enriched in irritable bowel syndromepatients compared to both control groups. We characterised the comorbidities of irritable bowel syndrome as psychosocial health problems, urogenital symptoms and infections, musculoskeletal symptoms and other somatic symptoms. These had a uniform incidence in the years around the irritable bowel syndrome diagnosis, and did not structurally precede or follow irritable bowel syndrome.

CONCLUSIONS: Irritable bowel syndrome shares long-term associations with psychosocial health problems, urogenital symptoms and infections, musculoskeletal symptoms and other somatic symptoms in primary care. Clinicians are encouraged to take comorbidities into account when diagnosing and managing irritable bowel syndrome, as this may have important treatment implications.

© Copyright 2013-2022 GI Health Foundation. All rights reserved.
This site is maintained as an educational resource for US healthcare providers only. Use of this website is governed by the GIHF terms of use and privacy statement.