syndrome (IBS) is a disorder of the intestines. It causes belly pain, cramping
or bloating, and diarrhea or constipation. IBS is a
long-term problem, but there are things you can do to reduce your symptoms.
Your symptoms may be worse or better from day to day, but your
IBS will not get worse over time. IBS doesn't cause more serious diseases,
inflammatory bowel disease or cancer.
It isn't clear what causes irritable bowel syndrome. The cause may be different for different people. IBS may be caused by problems with the way signals are sent between the brain and the digestive tract, problems digesting certain foods, and stress or anxiety. People with IBS may have unusually sensitive intestines or problems with the way the muscles of the intestines move.
For some people with IBS, certain
foods, stress, hormonal changes, and some antibiotics may trigger pain and
The main symptoms of
irritable bowel syndrome are belly pain with constipation or diarrhea. Other
common symptoms are bloating, mucus in the stools, and a feeling that you have
not completely emptied your bowels.
Many people with IBS go back
and forth between having constipation and having diarrhea. For most people, one
of these happens more often than the other.
IBS is quite common, but most people's symptoms are so mild that they never see a doctor for treatment.
Some people may have troublesome symptoms, especially stomach cramps,
bloating, and diarrhea.
Because there are no structural problems in the
intestines of people who have IBS, some people may think this means that the
symptoms "are all in their head." This isn't true. The pain, discomfort, and
bloating are real.
Most of the time, doctors
can diagnose irritable bowel syndrome from the symptoms. Your doctor will ask
you about your symptoms and past health and will do a physical exam.
In some cases, you may need other tests, such as stool analysis or blood tests. These tests can help your doctor rule out other
problems that might be causing your symptoms.
Treatment usually includes making changes in your diet and lifestyle, such as
avoiding foods that trigger your symptoms, getting regular exercise, and
managing your stress.
If diet and lifestyle changes don't help enough on their own,
your doctor may prescribe medicines for symptoms such as pain, diarrhea, or constipation.