The mornings with irritable bowel syndrome are the most challenging for Jeffrey Roberts. His stomach cramps up. He feels like he needs to be near a bathroom at all times. So he gives himself at least 2 hours to get ready for work. When he goes out, he often takes routes he knows will have public restrooms along the way.
This is reality for Roberts and up to 58 million other Americans who suffer from irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) at some point in their lives. Their exact symptoms, and the severity,...
Bowel movements that feel uncontrollably urgent, difficult to pass, or incomplete
Clear or white mucus with the stool
To determine whether your digestive problems are truly IBS, doctors need to see two out of the following three features:
A bowel movement relieves the ache and suffering
There's a change in how often the stool comes out
The stool looks different
The standard diagnostic guideline for IBS, called the Rome III criteria, requires that you have these symptoms for at least 12 weeks during the past 6 months. But most doctors don't follow that requirement closely, says Philip Schoenfeld, MD, MSEd, MSc. He is co-author of the American College of Gastroenterology's IBS treatment guidelines.
Schoenfeld says it's tough for patients to remember the exact number of weeks they had symptoms in the preceding year. He suggests that people not wait. Instead, see a doctor whenever you have recurrent symptoms.
Doctors can determine whether your symptoms are IBS or signs of another problem. IBS is often confused with other illnesses, so doctors will need to ask questions and perform tests to confirm a diagnosis.
Blood in the stool, fever, weight loss, and continuing pain are NOT symptoms of IBS. If you have these symptoms, see a doctor right away.
Philip Schoenfeld, MD, MSEd, MSc, co-author of the American College of Gastroenterology's "Evidence-Based Guidelines on the Management of Irritable Bowel Syndrome."
Current Psychiatry Web site.
National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse: "Irritable Bowel Syndrome."