‘Symptom-free’ when inflammatory bowel disease is in remission: Expectations raised by online resources

Danielle Huisman, Taylor Burrows, Louise Sweeney, Kirsty Bannister, Rona Moss-Morris*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


Objectives: Up to 60% of patients with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) experience symptoms when in remission. Qualitative research suggests patients seldom feel they receive adequate explanations for these. This study explores how, and how often, ongoing symptoms during remission are represented on readily searchable patient websites. Methods: Bing, Google, and Yahoo were searched for websites providing medical information about IBD. Thematic analysis was used to inductively explore themes around symptoms during quiescent IBD, followed by deductive content analysis to quantify core themes. Results: Results indicated that remission is commonly defined as “few or no symptoms” and that there is limited information available on symptoms during remission. 55.6% of IBD websites provided a definition of remission based on symptom control only, while 44.4% also incorporated inflammatory control. The few websites that mentioned that symptoms may continue during remission (21.7%) related these to IBS. Conclusions: Current website information is predominantly biomedical and fails to adequately explain how symptoms may persist during remission and how IBS and IBD may be linked. Practice Implications: Lack of explanatory models of symptoms in remission may lead to distress and increase anxiety about symptoms. Clearer explanations of these symptoms are needed.

Original languageEnglish
Article number108034
JournalPatient Education and Counseling
Early online date11 Nov 2023
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2024


  • Abdominal pain
  • Health literacy
  • Inflammatory bowel disease
  • Irritable bowel disease
  • Online resources
  • Patient education
  • Qualitative research
  • Remission


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