Irritable Bowel Syndrome: What should you know?
What is it? Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a varied group of gastrointestinal conditions that is not fully understood.
What causes IBS? Psychological factors do not cause IBS. But IBS can make anxiety or depression worse. Many with IBS have anxiety related to the unpredictability of gastrointestinal symptoms and their IBS may negatively affect their life.
What are the symptoms of irritable bowel?
Recurrent abdominal pain for more than 6 months, occurring at least 1 day per week with 2 or more of the following symptoms
Pain better or worse with defecation
Change in stool frequency
Abnormal stool frequency (more than 3 times/day or less than 3 times/week)
Abnormal stool form (hard or loose and watery)
Mucus with stool
What is needed to diagnose IBS?
Patients should not have alarm symptoms: blood in stool, abdominal mass, jaundice, enlarged lymph nodes, rectal pain, vomiting, or weight loss, or night sweats.
Your physician may order labwork: CBC, thyroid labs, celiac serology, C-reactive protein or fecal calprotectin. Testing for pathogens in the stool may also be done to rule out infectious diarrhea.
You may be referred to a gastroenterologist for a colonoscopy. Colonoscopy is NOT NEEDED to diagnose irritable bowel syndrome. Biopsies may be taken to rule out inflammatory bowel disease (Crohn’s or ulcerative colitis).
What is the treatment for IBS?
There is no definitive treatment for IBS. Treatment focuses on relieving symptoms (constipation or diarrhea) and making patient’s quality of life better. Healthy eating with more fiber and probiotics may help. Loperamide (Imodium) may firm up loose stools. For those with constipation, there are many treatments: fiber, Miralax, lactulose, Dulcolax, senna. There are also prescription medicines available from the pharmacist for constipation-predominant IBS.
I hope this helps.