Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)

Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) consists of a number of symptoms. The most common symptoms of IBS are abdominal pain and abnormal bowel habits. Many patients with IBS get crampy abdominal discomfort or pain, which comes and goes, and fluctuates with bowel function (typically easing after the bowel action).

IBS is the most common disorder of the digestive system and up to 35% of the population experience symptoms from time to time. It is one of the most common reasons for a visit to the GP.

Women are slightly more affected than men and the usual age for patients to seek advice is between 20 and 40 years. As many as one in eight people have symptoms of IBS at any one time.

Usually one symptoms predominates such as constipation, diarrhoea or pain. However the spectrum of this condition is so diverse that some people may have a mixture of all these symptoms.

Diagnosing IBS

Making a diagnosis of IBS will usually involve some investigation in the form of blood tests, stool samples. Occasionally scans and colonoscopy are required. Ultimately these tests are there to exclude other causes.

Symptoms of IBS

  • Constipation
  • Diarrhoea
  • Abdominal Bloating
  • Abdominal cramps
  • Food intolerance history

Symptoms that not related to IBS

  • Diarrhoea that wakes you at night
  • Weight loss
  • Passing blood from the back passage
  • Persistent change in bowel habit for 4 weeks or longer

Treatment of IBS

There is no one clear treatment for IBS. Treatments often revolve around dietary manipulation (eg FODMAPs diet) and combining anti-spasmodic treatments for cramps (eg Buscopan, Nortriptyline). Occasionally, Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) can be useful too.


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