Up to ten per cent of cases of Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) in the UK are misdiagnosed as Irritable Bowel Disease (IBS), a study published by United European Gastroenterology has found.
The study also found that in three per cent of cases, misdiagnosis persisted for five or more years. Dr Michael Scharl, a IBD researcher, said: 'We have known for some time that there are similarities between symptoms of IBS and IBD, but when it comes to diagnosis and treatment, this differs greatly.'
The initial misdiagnosis of IBD can have serious consequences for patients, in particular those with Crohn's disease. Studies have shown that delays in diagnosis have a direct link with an increased risk of bowel stenosis and intestinal surgery.
Dr Scharl added: 'Increased use of faecal calprotectin testing would help doctors distinguish between inflammatory bowel diseases, such as Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis and non-inflammatory bowel diseases, such as irritable bowel syndrome.'
IBS is estimated to affect nearly ten per cent of Europe's population in some form. Symptoms shared by IBS and IBD include diarrhoea, abdominal cramping and pain. However, IBD can also cause bloody stool, weight loss and fever.