Distinguishing IBS from Other Bowel Conditions
IBS is a separate condition from inflammatory bowel disease and other bowel conditions. It’s diagnosed based on the presence of specific symptoms occurring at least three days per month for the past three months.
Varied Bowel Symptoms and Patterns
The symptoms of IBS can vary in severity and duration from person to person. People with IBS may experience abdominal pain, cramping, bloating, gas, constipation, and diarrhoea. Some individuals may have episodes of both constipation and diarrhoea. The symptoms may come and go or be persistent.
The pain experienced with IBS is often described as cramping and can be relieved by having a bowel movement. Changes in bowel movements and the appearance of stools are also common with IBS.
Potential Causes and Risk Factors
The exact cause of IBS is unknown, but potential factors include an overly sensitive colon, immune system issues, and a previous bacterial infection in the gastrointestinal tract. Certain risk factors may increase the likelihood of developing IBS, such as food poisoning, being female, antibiotic use, anxiety or depression, and somatic symptom disorder or neuroticism.
Diagnosing and Treating IBS
To diagnose IBS, doctors rely on symptoms reported by the patient and may conduct tests to rule out other possible causes. Treatment for IBS focuses on managing symptoms and may involve lifestyle changes, such as exercise and stress reduction, as well as dietary modifications. Some medications can also be prescribed to help with specific symptoms.
When to Seek Medical Attention
It’s important to consult a doctor if symptoms persist for more than a few days or if there are sudden changes or severe symptoms like rectal bleeding, unrelieved pain, weight loss, decreased appetite, nausea, or vomiting. These could indicate a more serious condition and require medical attention.