BACKGROUND: Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a prevalent functional gastrointestinal dysmotility disorder. This study aimed to estimate the burden of illness of a Dutch population of community dwelling patients suffering from IBS. METHODS: Patientidentified at community pharmacies, using mebeverine as a proxy for IBS, were administered a questionnaire regarding (1) the Rome II criteria for IBS, (2) predominant type of stool during complaints, (3) severity of symptoms (abdominal pain and discomfort), (4) generic and disease-specific quality of life, (5) current health status (utilities), and (6) loss of productivity. RESULTS: Three hundred and seventy-five users of mebeverine were identified of which 169 patients met the Rome II criteria for IBS, and were included in the study. More than half (58%) of the IBS patients reported severe abdominal pain and complaints. Generic and disease-specific quality of life outcomes showed impairment on all dimensions. Current health status in IBS patients, calculated on the basis of the EQ-5D VAS, was perceived on 62% of full health (95% CI, 60-66%). A calculation of health status in these patients based on the SF-6D algorithm showed a comparable score of 0.67 (1 is full health; 95% CI, 0.65-0.68). The lossin productivity of IBS patients was 1.8 days (95% CI, 1.1-2.5) per month. CONCLUSIONS: This study confirmed that the burden of illness of IBS in the Netherlands is substantial. IBS patients treated with mebeverine experienced low quality of life and suffered from severe pain. Based on these results, more attention for the diagnosis and treatment of IBS seems to be justified.