Overlapping irritable bowel syndrome and inflammatory bowel disease

Gajula P1, Quigley EM2. Minerva Gastroenterol Dietol. 2019 Feb 11. doi: 10.23736/S1121-421X.19.02559-5. [Epub ahead of print]


Author information

1 Department of Medicine, Houston Methodist Hospital and Weill Cornell Medical College, Houston, TX, USA.

2 Division of Gastroenterology and Hepatology, Lynda K. and David M. Underwood Center for Digestive Disorders, Houston Methodist Hospital and Weill Cornell Medical College, Houston, TX, USA - equigley@houstonmethodist.org.


The pathogenesis of irritable bowel-type symptoms occurring in patients with inflammatory bowel disease who are in apparent remission continues to generate scientific controversy and the interpretation and management of these symptoms, so distressing to the sufferer, represent major challenges for the clinician. On the one hand, these symptoms often satisfy Rome IV criteria for IBS and their occurrence correlates highly with anxiety, a known trigger for IBS. On the other hand, recent studies have shown that many of these patients exhibit subtle inflammatory changes. These observations beg the question: are these symptoms "true" IBS superimposed on IBD, or an active but sub-clinical form of IBD? While it is certain that earlier studies failed to detect subclinical inflammation, it is also evident that even with the use of sensitive biomarkers for inflammation, such as calprotectin and lactoferrin backed up by pan-endoscopy and biopsy to exclude ongoing inflammatory activity in its most subtle form, the prevalence of IBS-type symptoms remains higher than expected in the IBD patient. Pending further definition of its etiology and pathology, we coined the term irritable inflammatory bowel syndrome (IIBS) to refer to this phenomenon. Here we explore the risk factors for this entity, sift through clues to its pathogenesis and attempt to provide, albeit bereft of a robust evidence base, an approach to its management.

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