Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) is more common than many people are led to believe. By some estimates, as many as 23% of people worldwide suffer with IBS. Once people are aware that this medical condition can be treated, they find their lives improve dramatically. You may have regular customers who don’t realize their pain and discomfort might be IBS. Take this opportunity to reach out and empower those who are suffering silently.
What is IBS?
IBS usually presents as abdominal discomfort – or even pain – and can manifest in a variety of symptoms, including abdominal pain followed by constipation or diarrhea, or both alternating. One thing that makes IBS so confusing for patients is that the symptoms don’t always seem related. The most consistent symptoms will be the pain and changes in bowel habit as stated above. Because these come and go over a long period, however, many people don’t realize the underlying cause is the same. Other symptoms may include upper GI issues such as heartburn, feeling overly full, nausea, bloating, feeling the need to urgently go to the bathroom, fatigue, muscle pain, sleep disturbances, sexual dysfunction, lower back pain, and headache.
There are no tests that conclusively diagnose IBS, which is another reason it has been difficult to address in the past. The current diagnostic criteria require abdominal discomfort or pain for a minimum of three days of each of the past three months that was associated with at least two of the following: pain improving with defecation, onset associated with a change in frequency, or onset associated with a change in appearance of stool.
The International Foundation for Functional Gastrointestinal Disorders (IFFGD), offers a variety of free printable posters and flyers to help educate people about IBS. These are a great way to introduce the conversation. Place these near checkout and consultation locations as well as where people purchase supplies used to treat the symptoms of IBS.
The website also has a free introductory packet that fully explains the condition, symptoms, research, and treatments. This would be beneficial for pharmacists who might be interacting with curious customers. It could also be printed as a reference for people to read as they waited. The group has a Facebook and Twitter account you can direct customers to, or you can follow them to ask your own questions and stay updated.
By taking the time to inform your customers of this condition you are making an impact on the overall health education of your community, and potentially helping to transform someone’s life. IBS can be an uncomfortable topic for some people. Having the issue openly discussed in a public and professional setting is empowering for patients and shows just how much you and your company care.