OBJECTIVES: To investigate the impact of lower gastrointestinal (GI) symptoms in the general Canadian population, and to explore patient satisfaction with traditional therapies and the level of patient interest in new treatments.
PATIENTS AND METHODS: Stage 1: A telephone survey of a weighted sample of 1000 adults (18 years of age or older) was conducted to determine the prevalence of five GI symptoms – abdominal pain, abdominal discomfort, bloating, constipation or constipation with occasional diarrhea -- that were present for 12 weeks or more (not necessarily consecutive) over the past year. Respondents with only abdominal pain were excluded. Stage 2: A telephone survey of 689 women (18 to 64 years of age), experiencing the GI symptoms described in stage 1, was conducted to assess symptom impact and treatment satisfaction.
RESULTS: Overall, 5.2% of the Canadian population (2.3% men and 7.9% women) experienced one or more lower GI symptoms (excluding those reporting abdominal pain alone). In stage 2, 26.2% of respondents had previously been diagnosed with irritable bowel syndrome. Overall, 78.1% of participants experienced two or more symptoms. Bloating was the most common symptom (75.3%) and abdominal pain the most bothersome and most severe. Over the previous three months, 13.2% of respondents missed work or school and 28.8% were less productive. At least one physician (average of 2.2 physicians) was consulted for symptoms in 80.9% of respondents. Of the 63.8% women receiving treatment, most used nonprescription products. Patients receiving prescription treatments for constipation were most often dissatisfied (75%).
CONCLUSIONS: Abdominal pain and discomfort, bloating and constipation are common, frequently occurring symptoms in the Canadian population and have a high burden on work performance and health care seeking. Most patients were dissatisfied with traditional therapies.