(StatePoint) The COVID-19 pandemic has changed many things about living with chronic conditions such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), which affects 12 million adults in the U.S. While being at home in closer proximity to a restroom more often may have helped, some report they have experienced worsened gastrointestinal symptoms during the last year.
This April, for IBS Awareness Month, Salix Pharmaceuticals, in partnership with The Fairleigh Dickinson University Poll, released the “Patient Perspectives: Living with IBS in a Pandemic” report. The report uncovers new insights about the symptoms and behaviors of nearly 700 IBS patients over the past year.
“Discovering what IBS patients are feeling and experiencing during the pandemic may be eye opening for health care providers and prompt needed conversations with patients,” says Howard Franklin, MD, chief medical officer, Salix Pharmaceuticals, a company committed to the prevention and treatment of gastrointestinal diseases and disorders.
What the Survey Found
Dr. Franklin says that as part of the survey fielded in March 2021, IBS patients gave a clear story. Like most people, their lives and routines have been disrupted over the course of the pandemic. Since the COVID-19 pandemic began, one-third of respondents said their eating habits have worsened, more than a third reported they did not discuss their IBS symptoms with their healthcare provider, almost half say their mental health has worsened, and 51 percent say they are physically less active.
When asked about a few of the symptoms of IBS, respondents reported worsened constipation (31 percent), diarrhea (33 percent), abdominal pain and discomfort (39 percent), and bloating (42 percent). With regard to any of these symptoms, fewer than 15 percent of respondents reported improvement over the past year.
However, 25 percent of respondents report it has been less challenging to manage their IBS symptoms since the pandemic began, noting that the top reasons for this were: increased access to restrooms (71 percent), and changes in normal routine (67 percent). The full report is available here.
What’s in Store for the Future?
According to the survey, top new concerns respondents have about living with IBS after the pandemic include a lack of access to restrooms (55 percent), returning to social gatherings (48 percent) such as eating in restaurants or holiday celebrations, and travel (37 percent).
Dr. Franklin says that these survey results highlight how important it is for patients and health care providers to have regular conversations about symptoms and available treatment options. He encourages patients to meet with their physicians virtually or in-person to discuss how their symptoms may have changed over the year, as well as to identify strategies for confidently transitioning back to their normal routines in the coming months.
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