BACKGROUND Pain is a common symptom related to inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). In addition to abdominal pain, pain can also be an extraintestinal manifestation of IBD. Pain treatment is challenging and a substantial part of IBD patients are treated with opioids. Therefore, a better knowledge on pain symptoms is crucial for a better therapeutic approach to this clinical problem.
METHODS Patients of the Swiss IBD Cohort Study (SIBDCS) (n = 2152) received a questionnaire regarding pain intensity, pain localization and impact of pain on daily life and social activities. Furthermore, the questionnaire investigated the use of pain-specific medication.
RESULTS A vast majority of patients (71%) experienced pain during the disease course. For a substantial part of patients (49% in UC and 55% in CD) pain is a longstanding problem (>5 years). Pain in UC was of shorter duration compared to CD (p < 0.01). Abdominal pain (59.5%) and back pain (38.3%) were the main pain localizations. 67% of patients took pain medication; 24% received no pain treatment. The general quality of life was significantly lower in patients suffering of pain compared to those without pain (38 vs. 77; (-100 very bad; 100 very good) p<0.0001).
CONCLUSIONS Prevalence of pain is high in patients of the SIBDCS. It is a longstanding problem for the majority of the patients affected. Pain was found to be undertreated in the SIBDCS and was significantly associated with health-related quality of life. Thus, an increased awareness is mandatory to address this frequent complication in the course of IBD.