Natural history of irritable bowel syndrome


Correspondence: José Manuel Marugán-Miguelsanz, PhD, Pediatric Gastroenterology and Nutrition, University Clinic Hospital, Adjunct Professor Medicine Faculty, Concepción 1, 4° A, 47003-Valladolid, Spain. Email:



Chronic diarrhea and functional abdominal pain (FAP) in childhood could be an early manifestation of adult irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). The aim of this study was to investigate the presence of chronic functional digestive symptoms in childhood, interviewing adult patients diagnosed with IBS, in an attempt to establish a relationship between them.


By means of a questionnaire, the history of colic, chronic diarrhea, functional abdominal pain, constipation and migraine in childhood, was analyzed in patients diagnosed with IBS according to the current Rome III criteria, and in control patients without known chronic digestive disorders. Fisher's exact test was used for comparison of frequencies.


The IBS study group was made up of 40 patients (24 women; average age, 33.03 years), and the control group by 40 adults (22 women; average age, 29.62 years). IBS-diagnosed adults spoke about a significantly higher prevalence of chronic diarrhea (32.5/7.5%; odds ratio [OR], 7.01; 95% confidence interval [CI]: 26.84–1.80), and FAP (37.5/15%; OR, 4.30; 95%CI: 12.67–1.43) in their childhood, than the control group. There were no differences in the presence of other childhood functional symptoms. Interestingly, the present patients, when asked about the onset of symptoms that led to the diagnosis of IBS, referred to them mostly beginning in adulthood, not linking their current diagnosis of IBS with their background in childhood.


In a proportion of adults with IBS the natural history of their symptoms probably began during their childhood.