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Why Does Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) Go Undiagnosed?

By Dr. G S Sidhu in Gastroenterology, Hepatology & Endoscopy

May 02 , 2023 | 1 min read

Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a gastrointestinal disorder that affects millions of people worldwide. It is characterized by symptoms such as diarrhoea, bloating, abdominal pain,  and constipation. Despite its prevalence, IBS often goes undiagnosed, leaving sufferers without proper treatment and relief from their symptoms. 

One of the primary reasons why IBS is frequently undiagnosed is that its symptoms are often mistaken for other digestive disorders. For example, the symptoms of IBS can be similar to inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), such as Crohn's disease or ulcerative colitis. These conditions require different treatment approaches, so it's essential to distinguish between them accurately. Additionally, the symptoms of IBS can also mimic those of celiac disease, lactose intolerance, and other food allergies, making diagnosis even more challenging.

Another factor contributing to the underdiagnosis of IBS is the stigma attached to gastrointestinal issues. Many people feel ashamed or embarrasse to discuss their digestive problems with their healthcare providers, which can lead to delayed diagnosis and treatment. Moreover, some individuals may dismiss their symptoms as normal, believing everyone experiences similar digestive issues.

IBS can also be challenging to diagnose because there is hardly any test or biomarker to confirm the condition. Instead, doctors typically rely on the presence of symptoms and excluding other possible causes, which can take time and be a frustrating process for patients.

Finally, there is a lack of awareness and understanding of IBS among both patients and healthcare providers. Many people are unaware of this condition, and its symptoms are often dismissed or trivialized. Additionally, some doctors may lack the training or experience to diagnose and treat inflammatory bowel syndrome (IBS) effectively.

In conclusion, there are several reasons why IBS goes undiagnosed, including the similarity of its symptoms to other digestive disorders, the stigma surrounding gastrointestinal issues, the lack of a specific diagnostic test, and the lack of awareness and understanding of the condition. If you're experiencing any symptoms of IBS, it's essential to speak with your healthcare provider and advocate for yourself to ensure proper diagnosis and treatment.