Distinguishing between irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and functional dyspepsia can be challenging because of the variations in symptom patterns, which commonly overlap. However, the overlap is poorly quantified, and it is equally uncertain whether symptom patterns differ in subgroups of IBS arbitrarily defined by primary bowel patterns of constipation (IBS-C) and diarrhea (IBS-D). We aimed to determine and to compare the distribution of GI symptoms, both, upper and lower, among IBS-C and IBS-D patients.
A total of 121 consecutive patients presenting with a diagnosis of IBS were grouped according to primary bowel symptoms as IBS-C (58 women and 18 men, mean age 47 +/- 17 yr) or IBS-D (26 women and 19 men, mean age 47 +/- 15 yr). The Hopkins Bowel Symptom Questionnaire, which includes a brief Quality of Life assessment, and the Hopkins Symptom Checklist 90-Revised were completed by all patients at intake.
IBS-C patients reported significantly more overall GI symptoms when compared to patients with IBS-D (6.67 vs 4.62, respectively, p<0.001). Abdominal pain patterns differed in patients with IBS-C versus IBS-D (lower abdominal pain: 40.8% vs 24.4% p=0.05 and upper abdominal pain: 36.8% vs 24.4%, respectively). Bloating was substantially more common in IBS-C patients (75%) than in IBS-D (40.9%). There were no significant differences in personality subscales by IBS subgroup; however, somatization was positively associated with multiple symptom reports and was negatively correlated with quality of life.
Upper GI symptoms consistent with functional dyspepsia were more frequent in IBS-C. Although there was considerable overlap of upper and lower GI symptoms in patients with IBS-C and IBS-D, the former had more frequent lower abdominal pain and bloating.