What is the prognosis of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)?

Updated: Dec 11, 2019
  • Author: Jenifer K Lehrer, MD; Chief Editor: BS Anand, MD  more...
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Irritable bowel syndrome is a chronic relapsing disorder characterized by recurrent symptoms of variable severity; however, life expectancy remains similar to that of the general population. Clinicians must be forthcoming with patients because knowledge of the condition may help allay undue fears as their disease waxes and wanes. Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) does not increase the mortality, or the risk of inflammatory bowel disease or cancer.

Patients with irritable bowel syndrome may carry an increased risk of ectopic pregnancy and miscarriage, but not stillbirth. The reasons for this are unknown. Whether the risk increases because of IBS itself, or because of another factor such as medications used for irritable bowel syndrome, is unknown. [26]

The principal associated physical morbidities of irritable bowel syndrome include abdominal pain and lifestyle modifications secondary to altered bowel habits. Work absenteeism resulting in lost wages is more frequent in patients with irritable bowel syndrome.

There appears to be an increased prevalence of comorbid anxiety and depression among patients with IBS, and these are associated with lower socioeconomic status and lower average per capita income. [27] Clinicians therefore should consider a biopsychosocial model of illness in these patients.

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