Thousands suffering in silence

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The Independent Online
Thousands of people with stomach upsets caused by irritable bowel syndrome suffer in silence because they are too embarrassed to seek help, according to a survey published today. The findings show that two-in-five people - 43 per cent - believe the most embarrassing thing to ask for in a pharmacy is treatment for a bowel problem. Asking for such treatment was far more embarrassing than asking for condoms, they said.

More than 15 per cent of those questioned also admitted that at some stage they had gone without treatment, preferring to suffer in silence rather than talk to a doctor or pharmacist.

The nationwide telephone survey conducted on behalf of Pharmacia and Upjohn coincides with an appeal from the Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) charity to raise public awareness about bowel disorders. Dr David Silk, IBS Appeal's director of research, said IBS was a debilitating condition which affected millions of adults, although only an estimated 25 per cent had consulted their doctor.

Irritable bowel syndrome, the most common disorder of the intestine, affects twice as many women as men. There is no cure, but peppermint oil and other over-the-counter remedies available in pharmacies can relieve symptoms.