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Prodromal Irritable Bowel Syndrome May Be Responsible for Delays in Diagnosis in Patients Presenting with Unrecognized Crohn’s Disease and Celiac Disease, but Not Ulcerative Colitis

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We aimed to determine the prevalence and duration of prodromal periods in patients with celiac disease and inflammatory bowel disease (Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis). Furthermore, we explored to what extent vague abdominal symptoms consistent with both disorders were attributed to irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and if the presence of prodromal IBS (P-IBS) had an impact on prodrome duration.


In the study, 683 biopsy-proven patients (celiac n = 225, ulcerative colitis n = 228, Crohn’s disease n = 230) completed a postal survey including an assessment of prodromal periods and IBS symptoms during both the prodrome and at present (achieved by completion of the ROME II criteria). Results were compared to age/sex-matched controls (n = 348).


Crohn’s disease patients had the highest prevalence of prodromes (94%) in comparison to ulcerative colitis (48%) and celiac disease (44%). However, Crohn’s disease patients have the lowest prevalence of P-IBS (29%) in comparison to ulcerative colitis (38%) and celiac disease (67%). Prodrome duration in patients with P-IBS Crohn’s disease was 4 years in comparison to 2 years without (p = 0.018). Prodrome duration in P-IBS celiac disease was 10 years in comparison to 7 years without (p = 0.046). Prodrome duration in patients with ulcerative colitis was not affected by P-IBS (p ≥ 0.05). Age and sex were not confounding factors.


This is the first study to make direct comparisons of prodrome periods between celiac disease and IBD. Prodrome duration in celiac disease is significantly longer and more often characterized by P-IBS than IBD. In celiac disease and CD, P-IBS increases prodrome duration. This may represent a failure to understand the overlap between IBS and celiac disease/IBD.

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Correspondence to S. M. Barratt.

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Barratt, S.M., Leeds, J.S., Robinson, K. et al. Prodromal Irritable Bowel Syndrome May Be Responsible for Delays in Diagnosis in Patients Presenting with Unrecognized Crohn’s Disease and Celiac Disease, but Not Ulcerative Colitis. Dig Dis Sci 56, 3270–3275 (2011).

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