Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a disease of the functional gastrointestinal tract, which usually manifests in abdominal pain, bloating, and diarrhea or constipation. However, on physical examination, there were no anatomical abnormalities in the IBS patient. In the global population, IBS is a fairly common digestive system disorder. According to an internet survey conducted globally, it was reported that the prevalence of IBS worldwide ranges from 3-5% of the world’s population.
According to the results of a recent study about the impact of COVID-19 on IBS, it was found that patients with IBS tended to experience a poorer quality of life and reluctant to follow social restrictions during the COVID-19 pandemic compare to those who did not experience IBS. In addition, the same study also showed that from respondents who are never experiencing IBS, 4.7% of participants experienced symptoms resembling IBS in the first 3 months of the COVID-19 pandemic.
This conclusion is based on multinational research involving researchers from various countries in Asia, such as Singapore, Bangladesh, China, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, the Philippines, South Korea and Taiwan. The research has been published in the international journal Journal of Gastroenterology and Hepatology on February 21, 2021 and can be accessed at https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/jgh.15466
IBS is thought to be a stress-related disease. Psychosocial stress will have a negative impact on the digestive system, making people more susceptible to IBS, or IBS symptoms will worsen. A pandemic condition causes significant changes to the lifestyle of most people in the world, therefore it is feared that it could have an impact on IBS patients or increase the number of new IBS cases.
The research data were obtained from an online survey from May to June 2020. The study used a questionnaire to assess participants’ knowledge, attitudes and behavior regarding personal hygiene and social distancing during this pandemic. Several questions were also aimed at assessing the psychological effects of COVID-19 on respondents. The survey was distributed via social media (Facebook, WhatsApp, and Instagram) targeting respondents from 33 countries in Asia.
The results that managed to collect 2704 respondents revealed that 11.5% of respondents reported experiencing IBS. Respondents who claim to have IBS have a lower quality of life in terms of emotional, social, and psychological. 11.6% of IBS patients reported worsening of IBS symptoms, while 26.6% reported better IBS symptoms and 61.6% reported no change of IBS symptoms.
For the subjects who experienced improvement in IBS symptoms, one possible explanation is because in the COVID-19 pandemic these IBS patients have better control in their lives. With more flexible working hours, working from home, and supportive social support during the onset of a pandemic, the stress experienced will be reduced and the symptoms will improve.
Prof. Dr. dr. Ari Fahrial Syam, Sp.PD-KGEH, MMB, the Dean of the Faculty of Medicine, Universitas Indonesia as one of the researchers involved in the study, said that the studies will help in managing IBS patients during this difficult time. “During the COVID-19 pandemic, IBS patients experience a double burden. Some patients experience worsening of symptoms and find it difficult to follow health protocols during the pandemic which will put them at risk for contracting COVID-19 with more severe symptoms. Hopefully from study that has been carried out, health workers will also pay attention to IBS patients’ quality of life as well as curing the disease, “said Prof. Ari.
(FKUI Public Relations Office)