Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a debilitating condition that affects more than one in ten people. BS is a functional intestinal disorder characterized by chronic abdominal pain and changes in bowel patterns. IBS has no specific organic cause and no abnormalities that show up on endoscopies, blood tests or radiologic studies (x-rays).
IBS is identified in patients when they have had recurring abdominal pain or discomfort at least three days a month for at least three months and when:
There are four basic forms of IBS:
Although IBS shares some characteristics with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis, it should not be confused with these or other gastro-intestinal conditions. There is, however, some association with these other diseases; about one-third of patients with ulcerative colitis and just over two-fifths of patients with Crohn’s disease also have IBS.
IBS is caused by a central dysregulation -- miscommunication between the brain and the gut. This flawed connection results in a heightened sensitivity to everyday intestinal functions: gas and the colonic motor activity and contractions that allows a body to eliminate stool. The brain-gut disconnect common to IBS patients makes these otherwise normal functions bothersome and painful.
Some of the conditions that may lead to IBS are:
Food triggers may also play a part in IBS, including:
IBS patients may suffer from a combination of intestinal and non-intestinal symptoms.
These non-intestinal symptoms can be signs of a wide variety of conditions, but when associated with any of the intestinal symptoms listed, they can be signs of IBS.
Because IBS has no tangible abnormalities that can be detected with traditional imaging and testing, successful diagnosis depends on assessment by an experienced gastroenterologist who understands the complex interaction of the condition’s symptoms and their underlying causes.
Patients should be screened for IBS if they have a history of:
Patients should be screened for IBS if a physical examination reveals:
A number of different therapies are available to help IBS patients control their symptoms and maintain a normal, healthy lifestyle. They include:
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