Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)
What is irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)?
Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a disorder of the intestines. It causes belly pain, cramping or bloating, and diarrhea or constipation. IBS is a long-term problem, but there are things you can do to reduce your symptoms.
Your symptoms may be worse or better from day to day, but your IBS will not get worse over time. IBS doesn't cause more serious diseases, such as Reference inflammatory bowel disease Opens New Window or cancer.
What causes IBS?
It isn't clear what causes irritable bowel syndrome. The cause may be different for different people. IBS may be caused by problems with the way signals are sent between the brain and the Reference digestive tract Opens New Window Reference Opens New Window, problems digesting certain foods, and stress or anxiety. People with IBS may have unusually sensitive intestines or problems with the way the muscles of the intestines move.
For some people with IBS, certain foods, stress, hormonal changes, and some antibiotics may trigger pain and other symptoms.
What are the symptoms?
The main symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome are belly pain with constipation or diarrhea. Other common symptoms are bloating, mucus in the stools, and a feeling that you have not completely emptied your bowels.
Many people with IBS go back and forth between having constipation and having diarrhea. For most people, one of these happens more often than the other.
IBS is quite common, but most people's symptoms are so mild that they never see a doctor for treatment. Some people may have troublesome symptoms, especially stomach cramps, bloating, and diarrhea.
Because there are no structural problems in the intestines of people who have IBS, some people may think this means that the symptoms "are all in their head." This isn't true. The pain, discomfort, and bloating are real.
How is IBS diagnosed?
Most of the time, doctors can diagnose irritable bowel syndrome from the symptoms. Your doctor will ask you about your symptoms and past health and will do a physical exam.
In some cases, you may need other tests, such as stool analysis or blood tests. These tests can help your doctor rule out other problems that might be causing your symptoms.
How is it treated?
Treatment usually includes making changes in your diet and lifestyle, such as avoiding foods that trigger your symptoms, getting regular exercise, and managing your stress.
If diet and lifestyle changes don't help enough on their own, your doctor may prescribe medicines for symptoms such as pain, diarrhea, or constipation.
Frequently Asked Questions
Learning about IBS:
Living with IBS:
|By:||Reference Healthwise Staff||Last Revised: Reference November 5, 2012|
|Medical Review:||Reference E. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal Medicine
Reference Arvydas D. Vanagunas, MD - Gastroenterology