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Prevalence, symptom patterns and management of episodic diarrhoea in the community: A population-based survey in 11 countries

Lookup NU author(s): Emeritus Professor Amritpal Hungin


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© 2016 John Wiley & Sons Ltd.Background The extent of episodic diarrhoea in the community is relatively unknown. Aim To ascertain the prevalence, symptoms and management behaviours associated with self-reported diarrhoea across 11 countries. Methods Community screening surveys were conducted using quota sampling of respondents to identify a nationally representative sample of individuals suffering from 'episodic' diarrhoea (occurring once a month or more often). Second-phase in-depth surveys provided data on epidemiology, symptoms, attributed causes and management of episodic diarrhoea. Results A total of 11 508 phase 1 and 6613 phase 2 surveys were completed. The prevalence of self-reported episodic diarrhoea ranged from 16% to 23% across the 11 countries. The majority of episodic diarrhoea sufferers were female (57%) and were not diagnosed with pre-existing irritable bowel syndrome (IBS); IBS diagnosis ranged from 9% in Mexico to 44% in Italy. Diarrhoea was frequently attributed to anxiety/stress, food-related causes, gastrointestinal 'sensitivity' and menstruation. Accompanying symptoms included 'stomach pain/cramping' (35-62%), 'stomach grumbling' (29-68%) and 'wind' (18-74%). The proportion of episodic sufferers who reported treating their symptoms with remedies or medications ranged between 46% in Belgium and Canada and 90% in Mexico. Conclusions A substantial proportion of the population in middle- to high-income countries report episodic diarrhoea in the absence of a pre-existing diagnosis. These symptoms are likely to be associated with substantial social and economic costs, and have implications on how best to configure and guide self-led, pharmacist-led and primary care management.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Hungin APS, Paxman L, Koenig K, Dalrymple J, Wicks N, Walmsley J

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Alimentary Pharmacology and Therapeutics

Year: 2016

Volume: 43

Issue: 5

Pages: 586-595

Print publication date: 01/03/2016

Online publication date: 08/01/2016

Acceptance date: 11/12/2015

ISSN (print): 0269-2813

ISSN (electronic): 1365-2036

Publisher: Blackwell Publishing Ltd


DOI: 10.1111/apt.13513

PubMed id: 26749499


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