April is Irritable Bowel Syndrome Month, a time to pay attention to what our bowels are telling us.
What is IBS?
IBS is a group of symptoms. It is a long-term disorder of gastrointestinal (GI) functioning. It usually involves the large and small bowel/intestine (also called the gut).
What are the symptoms of IBS?
Common IBS symptoms are abdominal pain or discomfort, altered bowel habits (diarrhea and/or constipation), and bloating or a sense of gaseousness.
Abdominal pain or discomfort is the key symptom of IBS. It may feel better with a bowel movement. The pain occurs when stool frequency or consistency changes. Symptoms can come and go, and even change, over time.
How is IBS diagnosed?
A doctor will diagnosis IBS by asking about your past history and doing a physical examination. In IBS, certain typical symptoms occur. The diagnosis is based on symptoms and in the absence of signs not typical of IBS.
The symptom-based Rome diagnostic criteria for IBS emphasize a "positive diagnosis" rather than exhaustive tests to exclude other diseases.
Are there tests to confirm irritable bowel syndrome?
There are no tests that confirm the diagnosis of IBS. Laboratory tests, x-rays, and procedures such as colonoscopy are used to rule out other diseases of the bowel. Research is ongoing to find biological markers for IBS.
What is the Rome Criteria?
The Rome Criteria is a classification system that uses specific symptom patterns to identify functional GI disorders, such as IBS.
How common is IBS?
Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is the most common functional GI disorder. Worldwide prevalence rates range from nine to 23 percent.
Irritable bowel syndrome is nothing to mess with - especially if it could be confused with more serious gastrointestinal disorders.
If you have any discomfort at all that last more than a brief period of time, make an appointment with your family physician.
Your gut will thank you.