Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is an intestinal disorder that affects the large and small intestine. It can cause pain in the belly, gas, diarrhea, and constipation. Some people with the disorder have constipation. Some have diarrhea. Others go back and forth between the two.
As many as 1 in 5 American adults has signs and symptoms of IBS with more than 200,000 cases a year in the United States. Although IBS can cause a great deal of discomfort, it does not harm the intestines. It affects about twice as many women as men and is most often found in people younger than 45 years old. The exact cause of IBS is not known and there is no specific test for it. However, we may run tests to rule out other more serious diseases.
The signs and symptoms of IBS can vary greatly between people and often can be similar to those of other diseases.
Among the most common IBS symptoms are:
- Abdominal pain or cramping
- Gas from above or below
- Diarrhea or constipation
- Mucus in the stool
Symptoms of a more serious condition include:
- Rectal bleeding
- Abdominal pain that progresses or occurs at night
- Weight loss
Some people can control their symptoms with diet, lifestyle, and stress management and in the past this was all that was available to help patients. More recently, highly effective medications for diarrhea, constipation and bloating have been released. More than ever, it’s important to see a specialist for IBS.
It’s also important to make an appointment with us if you have a persistent change in bowel habits or if you have any other signs or symptoms of IBS because these may indicate a more serious condition, such as diverticulitis or colon cancer.