Irritable Bowel Syndrome - Sex and Gender Differences

Sex and Gender Differences

Women are approximately two to three times more likely to be diagnosed with IBS and four to five times more likely to seek specialty care for IBS than are men. These differences likely reflect a combination of both biological (sex) and social (gender) factors. Studies of female patients with IBS show that symptom severity often fluctuates with the menstrual cycle, suggesting that hormonal differences may play a role. Endorsement of gender-related traits has been associated with quality of life and psychological adjustment in IBS. Greater reductions in quality of life may make women with IBS more likely to seek treatment for their symptoms. More generally, gender differences in healthcare-seeking may also play a role. Gender differences in trait anxiety may contribute to lower pain thresholds in women, putting them at greater risk for a number of chronic pain disorders. Finally, sexual trauma is a major risk factor for IBS, with as many as 33% of all patients reporting such abuse. Because women are at higher risk of sexual abuse than men, gender-related risk of abuse may contribute to the higher prevalence of IBS in women.

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