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Survey: More Than Half of Americans Have GI Symptoms, Don’t Seek Medical Care

Pancreatic insufficiency can mimic digestive diseases (November 6)

In a new survey of more than 2,000 men and women in the U.S., 72% said they have experienced at least one of the following gastrointestinal (GI) symptoms a few times a month or more: diarrhea, gas, bloating, stomach pain, frequent bowel movements, unexplained weight-loss, and nonspecific GI discomfort.

Most of the survey participants (74%) have lived with their GI symptoms for more than 6 months. Despite this, more than half (56%) of those who experienced GI discomfort have not spoken with their primary care physician because they do not believe their symptoms require medical attention.

The online survey, commissioned by AbbVie, was conducted to obtain insights about the public’s approach to managing common GI symptoms, with a focus on their awareness of exocrine pancreatic insufficiency (EPI). EPI is the inability to properly digest fats, carbohydrates, and proteins because of a lack of digestive enzymes produced by the pancreas.

Thirty-seven percent of those surveyed who experienced GI discomfort for more than 6 months went to the doctor to discuss their symptoms. Among those who spoke to their primary care physician about their GI symptoms, only 24% received a diagnosis, while 11% reported that they visited their primary care doctor two or more times before receiving a diagnosis or being referred to a specialist.

Most of those surveyed (89%) reported that an improper diet may affect their GI discomfort. Only 19% of those who have a primary care doctor and have not spoken to their doctor about their GI discomfort reported that they are able to manage their GI symptoms on their own with dietary changes.

The survey also found that a significant proportion of Americans — 86% — are not knowledgeable about EPI. For people with this disorder, the pancreas does not produce enough enzymes to help in digestion or in the breakdown of food into nutrients. EPI symptoms — including diarrhea, gas, bloating, and stomach pain — can mimic the symptoms of other common digestive diseases.

Source: AbbVie; November 6, 2013.

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