Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a chronic disorder of the intestines. IBS does not cause inflammation and does not lead to a more serious condition.
The cause is unknown. With IBS, the muscles in the colon do not work normally and may spasm. If you have IBS, your colon may be more sensitive, reacting strongly to food and medication. Food allergies and certain bacteria may add to the symptoms. IBS may also occur after having the stomach flu (called gastroenteritis ).
IBS is more common in women. It typically begins in young adulthood.
These factors may increase your chance of developing IBS:
- Family members with IBS
- Generalized anxiety disorder (associated with IBS)
- Abuse (may be associated with IBS)
Symptoms usually come and go, and range from mild to severe. They include:
- Abdominal cramps
- Gas and bloating
- Pain that resolves with a bowel movement
- Loose stools
- Alternating diarrhea and constipation
- Urge to move bowels again immediately following a bowel movement
- Mucus in the stool
These factors may worsen your symptoms:
- Menstrual periods
- Large meals or fatty foods
- Excess gas
You will be asked about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done. In many cases, a diagnosis can be made based on this. Since there is no diagnostic test for IBS, doctors have created criteria for making a diagnosis.
Your bodily fluids and waste products may be tested. This can be done with:
- Stool tests
- Blood tests
Your body structures may need to be viewed. This can be done with:
- Flexible sigmoidoscopy
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There is no cure for IBS. Treatment focuses on controlling symptoms.
There are no current guidelines for preventing IBS because the cause is unknown.