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Irritable Bowel Syndrome

Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a common, chronic and lifelong condition of the digestive system that may improve or worse over several years. The symptoms vary from individual to individual and tend to come and go in days or months interval.

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IBS develops between 20 and 30 years of age and women are twice more affected as compared to men. It generally affect one in five persons at some point in their life.

What causes IBS?

The exact cause of IBS is not known but is believed to be due to any of the following reasons:

  • Increased sensitivity of the gut
  • Problems digesting food
  • Psychological factors such as stress

In addition to these reasons, there are certain triggers that can stimulate symptoms in some people with IBS. Common triggers include:

  • Certain foods that are not tolerable
  • Hormonal changes especially in women
  • Other illnesses like infectious diarrhea
Symptoms of IBS

Although it is a chronic condition but there are times when symptoms are worse and times when they subside completely. Most of the signs and symptoms of IBS resemble the signs and symptoms of other GI diseases. Only a small number of people have severe signs and symptoms. The most common symptoms are:

  • Bouts of stomach cramps or pains
  • Bloating
  • Diarrhea and/or constipation
  • Mucus in the stool

Symptoms that may indicate a more serious condition include:

  • Rectal bleeding
  • Abdominal pain that progresses or occurs at night
  • Weight loss
Tests and diagnosis

Diagnosis of irritable bowel syndrome depends upon a complete medical history and physical examination of the patient. As there is no exact physical sign of IBS, diagnosis involves ruling out of other conditions by performing following diagnostic tests:

  • Stool study
  • Blood tests
  • Lactose intolerance tests
  • Breath tests
  • Flexible sigmoidoscopy
  • Colonoscopy
  • X-ray
  • Computerized tomography (CT) scan
  • Lower GI series
How IBS is treated

There is no cure for IBS and majorly symptomatic treatment is given to the patient and includes following:

  • Changes in diet and lifestyle
  • Meditation & exercises
  • Medication to treat the individual symptoms like:
    • Fiber supplements
    • Anti-diarrheal medications
    • Anticholinergic and antispasmodic medications
    • Antibiotics
  • Antidepressants