For the 30 to 45 million Americans living with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), the need to be understood by those closest to them often goes unfulfilled. Stigma surrounding bowel symptoms keeps many with IBS from talking openly about their condition with family and friends, employers, and even health care providers, and may prevent those affected from obtaining a diagnosis and receiving appropriate care.
“While common, IBS continues to be a severely misunderstood condition,” said Ceciel T. Rooker, President of the International Foundation for Gastrointestinal Disorders (IFFGD). “And patients often suffer painful and even disabling symptoms in silence, afraid that their illness experiences and needs will be trivialized or dismissed.”
April is IBS Awareness Month. To open up the conversation about the often-invisible challenges faced by individuals living with IBS, IFFGD encourages those affected to share the things they wish the people around them – family, friends, coworkers – understood about life with IBS using the hashtag #UnderstandMyIBS.
IBS is typically characterized by recurring or chronic bouts of abdominal pain in association with a change in bowel habit, such as diarrhea or constipation. Other symptoms may also occur, such as bloating, gas, or urgency. Symptoms of IBS can flare up unexpectedly and can change over time or even from day to day.
“Symptoms of IBS, together with the uncertainty and fluctuation, can make participating in activities most people take for granted, such as eating out or traveling long distances, almost impossible,” said Ms. Rooker. “But very few people recognize the true extent of this burden. By empowering those affected to challenge those around them to understand what life with IBS really means, we can foster greater understanding of the condition and improve outcomes.”
For more information about IBS, visit www.aboutIBS.org.