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Epidemiology of irritable bowel syndrome in Asia: something old, something new, something borrowed





J Gastroenterol Hepatol. 2009 Oct;24(10):1601-7.


Epidemiology of irritable bowel syndrome in Asia: something old, something new, something borrowed.


Gwee KA, Lu CL, Ghoshal UC. Gleneagles Hospital Annexe Block, Singapore 258500. This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.



In this review we have unearthed epidemiological data that; support the 'old' concept of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) as a disorder of civilization, build a 'new' symptom profile of IBS for Asia, and persuade us against the use of 'borrowed' Western diagnostic criteria and illness models by Asian societies. In the 1960s, IBS was described as a disorder of civilization. Early studies from Asia suggested a prevalence of IBS below 5%. Recent studies from Asia suggest a trend for the more affluent city states like Singapore and Tokyo, to have higher prevalence of 8.6% and 9.8%, respectively, while India had the lowest prevalence of 4.2%. Furthermore, there was a trend among the better educated and more affluent strata of society in several urban Chinese populations for a higher prevalence of IBS, as well as a trend for a higher consultation rate. Across Chinese and Indian predominant populations, a majority of patients with IBS criteria report upper abdominal symptoms such as epigastric pain relieved by defecation, bloating and dyspepsia. Bloating and incomplete evacuation appear to be more important determinants of consultation behavior, than psychological factors. The failure of the Rome criteria to recognize the relationship to meals, may have led to a substantial misclassification of IBS as dyspepsia. The relevance of the Western model of psychological disturbance as a determinant of consultation behavior is questionable because of the accessibility and acceptability of medical consultation for gastrointestinal complaints in many Asian communities.










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