What is irritable bowel syndrome?

Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a gastrointestinal disorder that produces abdominal pain, bloating, cramping, constipation, and diarrhea. Two forms of IBS are common, one that is accompanied by bloating, constipation, and abdominal fullness, and another in which diarrhea is present. Although IBS is not life threatening, its symptoms can severely erode quality of life and may even be disabling.

IBS is one of the most common syndromes in the United States, affecting up to 20% of the population. It is more common in women than in men, and it usually begins before the age of 35. There is no cure for IBS, but its symptoms are managed by medication, diet, and lifestyle changes. Unfortunately, up to 70% of patients with IBS do not get the proper treatment they need (Source: NDDIC).

People with IBS often report that stress management and activities, such as yoga and meditation, can have a calming and positive effect on their condition. Medications that may be prescribed for IBS include antidepressants, antidiarrheals, antispasmodics to control spasms in the colon, and fiber supplements. Dietary modifications, such as limiting dairy and gluten intake, can be helpful for some people.

Irritable bowel syndrome itself is not an emergency situation, but persistent diarrhea, a common symptom of the condition, can result in serious dehydration. Seek immediate medical care (call 911) for serious symptoms, such as severe abdominal pain, inability to pass gas or stool, vomiting blood, or blood in your stool.

Seek prompt medical care if you are being treated for irritable bowel syndrome but mild symptoms recur or persist.

SYMPTOMS

What are the symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome?

Symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) primarily affect the gastrointestinal system and include abdominal pain, discomfort, bloating, and fullness. IBS can occur with constipation and bloating as the main symptoms or with diarrhea, watery stools, and urgency.... Read more about irritable bowel syndromesymptoms

CAUSES

What causes irritable bowel syndrome?

The exact cause of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) has not been determined, although there are several theories. One theory is that IBS may be an immune disorder, or one in which the intestines of the affected person are highly sensitive in responding to stress and bacteria. Certain foods are thought to trigger IBS flare-ups, including dairy products and gluten, which is present in wheat, barley and rye.... Read more about irritable bowel syndromecauses

TREATMENTS

How is irritable bowel syndrome treated?

Currently, there is no cure for irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). The goal of treatment is to ease the symptoms, remedy the nutritional deficiencies, and reduce the number of recurrences, or flare-ups.... Read more about irritable bowel syndrometreatments

Medical Reviewer: All content has been reviewed by board-certified physicians under the direction of Rich Klasco, M.D., FACEP. Last Annual Review Date: May 2, 2011 Copyright: © Copyright 2011 Health Grades, Inc. All rights reserved. May not be reproduced or reprinted without permission from Health Grades, Inc. Use of this information is governed by the HealthGrades User Agreement.

This Article is Filed Under: Digestive System


Did You Know?

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Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is one of the most common disorders diagnosed by doctors. In fact, it's estimated that as many as 20 percent of adults have symptoms of IBS.