Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)
Irritable bowel syndrome is a common gastrointestinal disorder. Although its symptoms of cramping, abdominal pain, bloating, gas, diarrhea and constipation are distressing to sufferers, it does not lead to permanent damage or serious disease such as colon cancer.
In patients with IBS, the bowel does not contract properly. In many situations the bowel contracts in a disorganized manner that may be violent at times. Or, the bowel may remain contracted for extended periods of time. These abnormal contractions may cause sudden changes in bowel habits, including constipation or diarrhea.
Irritable bowel syndrome affects approximately 20% of the adult population in the USA. Patients with irritable bowel syndrome often have a family member that also suffers from the condition.
Symptoms of Irritable Bowel Syndrome
Patients with irritable bowel syndrome will often experience symptoms following certain situations. Infections, illnesses and weather changes may all produce bouts of IBS symptoms, as will eating certain foods such as coffee, milk, raw fruits and vegetables and certain spices. One of the most common factors that produce IBS symptoms is intense periods of stress. Women may also experience symptoms of IBS during their menstrual cycle.
The most common signs and symptoms of IBS include:
- Abdominal pain
Diagnosis of Irritable Bowel Syndrome
Irritable bowel syndrome is often diagnosed based on exclusion, which means that your gastroenterologist will first rule out other conditions prior to offering a diagnosis of IBS. Other conditions such as Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, infection or colon cancer may share similar symptoms to IBS.
In order to diagnose irritable bowel syndrome your physician will likely evaluate your personal and family medical history, and may also recommend an endoscopy or other tests.
Treatment of Irritable Bowel Syndrome
While no cure is currently available for IBS, symptom control can be achieved with medications such as antispasmodics, antidiarrheal agents, laxatives or antidepressants along with dietary changes and stress management techniques.