In 100 patients with irritable bowel syndrome a wide variety of non-gastrointestinal symptoms were significantly more common than in a group of 100 age, sex, and social class matched controls. Nocturia, frequency and urgency of micturition, incomplete bladder emptying, back pain, an unpleasant taste in the mouth, a constant feeling of tiredness and in women dyspareunia were particularly prominent (p less than 0.001). With reference to non-colonic gastrointestinal symptoms nausea, vomiting, dysphagia and early satiety were very common (p less than 0.0001). This symptom diversity was observed irrespective of whether the patient had a psychiatric disorder or not. Patients smoked more than controls (p = 0.02) drank more caffeine containing drinks (p = 0.03) and 26% had taken at least one week off work in the previous 12 months. Thirty three per cent of patients had a family history of irritable bowel syndrome. Cognisance of these diverse symptoms may prevent referral to the wrong medical specialty and inappropriate investigation. They may also be indicative of a much more diffuse disorder of smooth muscle than has previously been appreciated.
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