Difficulties in Irritable bowel syndrome: Disease Definition, Epidemiology, Pain Management and Treatment

Document Type : Review Article


Department of Gastroenterology, Nuffield Hospital, Leicester, LE5 5HY UK



The diagnosis and definition of irritable bowel syndrome is problematic. However, its existence as a disease entity has been recognised for at least a thousand years with both Rhazes and ibn Sina discussing the constellation of symptoms which make up thye syndrome. In recent times attention has focused on which symptoms and their duration are critical to the diagnosis. This work has been encapsulated in the reports of the Rome Foundation. The difficulties in disease definition have led to wide variations between reports on the condition’s prevalence in both within and between countries. Nevertheless, it is clear that irritable bowel syndrome is common across all societies. It is consequently of concern that allopathic medications are of limited benefit, particularly in the management of pain, and this has generated a growing interest in traditional therapies as well as hypnotherapy and acupuncture. This review touches on these issues and will hopefully stimulate further research.