People with IBS suffer pain and greatly reduced quality of life – but what hurts most is when family, friends, and doctors don’t think their suffering is legitimate.
Irritable bowel syndrome greatly disrupts the lives of people who suffer from it. But unlike other gut diseases, such as inflammatory bowel disease, IBS has no known physical cause. And it presents in different ways: with unpredictable diarrhea, with extreme constipation, or both.
“IBS is a disorder with no structural abnormality like ulcers or cancers so it takes on a lower level of legitimacy for doctors and patients,” IBS expert Douglas A. Drossman, MD, tells WebMD. “People say it isn’t real, and patients say, ‘Well then, I must be crazy.’”
That would be a lot of crazy people. An estimated 7% of the U.S. population has IBS. In the U.K., the estimate is even higher: about 10% to 20% of the population.