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Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)


IBS – Irritable Bowel Syndrome is a common functional disorder of the gut. A functional disorder means there is a problem with the function of a part of the body, but there is no abnormality in the structure. So, in IBS, the function of the gut is upset, but all parts of the gut look normal, even when looked at under a microscope. Irritable bowel syndrome commonly causes cramping, abdominal pain, bloating, gas, diarrhea and constipation.

The symptoms vary between individuals and affect some people more severely than others. They tend to come and go in periods lasting a few days to a few months at a time, often during times of stress or after eating certain foods.

Even though signs and symptoms are uncomfortable, IBS — unlike ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease, which are forms of inflammatory bowel disease — doesn’t cause changes in bowel tissue or increase your risk of colorectal cancer.

Even though signs and symptoms are uncomfortable, IBS — unlike ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease, which are forms of inflammatory bowel disease — doesn’t cause changes in bowel tissue or increase your risk of colorectal cancer.

Causes of IBS

The exact cause of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is unknown. It is believed to be due to a number of factors including alteration in the gastrointestinal (GI) tract motility, abnormal nervous system signals, increased sensitivity to pain, and food intolerances. The following are some risk factors believed to cause IBS:

  • Abnormal movements of the colon and small intestines (too fast or slow, or too strong)
  • Hypersensitivity to pain from a full bowel or gas
  • Food sensitivities, possibly caused by poor absorption of sugars or acids in food
  • Gastroenteritis, a viral or bacterial infection of the stomach and intestines, may trigger IBS symptoms
  • Psychological conditions such as anxiety or depression are observed in many people with IBS, though they have not been found to be a direct cause of IBS.
  • Reproductive hormones or neurotransmitters may be off-balance in people with IBS.
  • Small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO)
  • Genetics is thought to be a possible cause of IBS, but so far this hereditary link has not been proven.

Symptoms of IBS

The signs and symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome can vary widely from person to person and often resemble those of other diseases like IBD. Among the most common are:

  • Abdominal pain or cramping
  • A bloated feeling
  • Gas
  • Diarrhea or constipation — sometimes alternating bouts of constipation and diarrhea
  • Mucus in the stool

For most people, IBS is a chronic condition, although there will likely be times when the signs and symptoms are worse and times when they improve or even disappear completely.

  • Feeling sick (nausea).
  • AHeadache.
  • Belching.
  • Poor appetite.
  • Tiredness.
  • Backache.
  • Muscle pains.
  • Feeling quickly full after eating.
  • Heartburn
  • Bladder symptoms (an associated irritable bladder).

Some people have occasional mild symptoms. Others have unpleasant symptoms for long periods. Many people fall somewhere in between, with flare-ups of symptoms from time to time.

Diagnosis of IBS

A diagnosis of irritable bowel syndrome depends largely on a complete medical history and physical exam, your symptoms and their severity are only part of the picture. Other causes need to be ruled out. Is it really IBS or possibly another condition?

To be diagnosed with IBS, the duration of symptoms should be at least six months, and should occur at least three times a month.

A doctor may order tests, including blood tests, stool tests, X-rays, or CT scans. There is no specific finding on these tests that can confirm the diagnosis of IBS, however, other problems can be ruled out by performing them.

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