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Irritable bowel syndrome, or IBS, is a chronic condition that affects the colon, or large intestine. Unlike inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), irritable bowel syndrome doesn't cause permanent changes to the bowel tissue; however, it can cause many of the same or similar symptoms as IBD. Like IBD, IBS requires a long-term management strategy to keep symptoms under control.
IBS symptoms can vary from one patient to the next based on the severity of the condition and other factors. Symptoms can include:
The underlying cause of IBS isn't known, but symptoms of IBS can be triggered by illnesses, hormonal fluctuations or foods. An imbalance in the healthy bacteria normally found in the gut can also trigger IBS symptoms. Some research has also suggested problems with the nerve pathways that control the bowel may also play a role in IBS.
IBS can often be diagnosed with a physical exam and a medical history, but sometimes more extensive testing is required to rule out other diseases that can cause similar symptoms, such as inflammatory bowel disease. Testing can include blood work, stool sampling and colonoscopy to see inside your colon and rectum. Testing will usually be ordered if your have persistent abdominal pain, blood in your stools, unintended weight loss, anemia or other issues that could indicate a more serious underlying disease.
Most cases of IBS can be managed with lifestyle changes like eliminating or reducing certain foods from the diet or by managing chronic stress. When symptoms are severe, medications can be sued to help relieve symptoms like diarrhea, gas and bloating. Your treatment plan will be developed based on your specific symptoms and needs.
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