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Symptoms of Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)

Symptoms of Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)

Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a chronic condition which affects the gastrointestinal tract and has many symptoms, the most common being abdominal pain and abnormal bowel habits. Since many of such symptoms are present in other gastrointestinal diseases as well, it is important to know which cluster of symptoms constitute IBS.
Kanika Goswami
Last Updated: Apr 23, 2018
Irritable bowel syndrome is a condition in which a number of gastrointestinal (GI) disturbances like abdominal pain, flatulence, and altered bowel habits become a regular feature of the lives of those afflicted with it.
A set of guidelines known as the Rome criteria (formulated to diagnose IBS and other gastrointestinal disorders) states that a person has to have these GI disturbances for at least 3 days a week for 3 months to be considered as suffering from IBS. Women are more likely to get affected by this condition than men and it has also been found that the disease runs in families. Several factors can trigger IBS, like food poisoning, infections, and psychological factors.
Despite many efforts by researchers worldwide to find a definitive cause of IBS, it remains unknown. Certain food groups and substances worsen the symptoms of IBS in most people. These include alcohol, caffeine-containing substances, dairy products, fried foods, and foods with a high fat content.
Symptoms
Abdominal pain - ranging in severity, from mild to excruciating, is the most common symptom of IBS. Association of this symptom with various other symptoms helps in differentiating the pain of IBS from that of other diseases.
Pain, if relieved by passing stools, is usually considered as an indication of involvement of large intestine in the pathology of IBS.
Frequent bouts of diarrhea, which in some patients are so uncontrollable that they need to be close to a bathroom most of the time.
Some people suffering from IBS have constipation, with pain and difficulty while passing stools.
Mucus is found in the stools.
Alternating cycles of diarrhea and constipation are experienced by some patients.
The symptoms like pain, discomfort, and diarrhea or constipation worsen during periods of stress.
Bloating and abdominal distension are experienced by many IBS patients. The belly of the patient increases in diameter leading to an uncomfortable sensation of pressure in the abdomen.
Some patients find the symptoms worsen at the time of menstruation.
Many people with IBS experience severe nausea, or even vomiting, after a meal.
Flatulence is another common symptom that restricts the life of many patients as these people cannot socialize without the fear of embarrassing themselves in public.
Some people lose their appetite, either due to the nausea they get after eating, or due to unexplained factors associated with IBS.
Other symptoms include dyspepsia, fatigue, backache, and bladder problems.
A number of gastrointestinal diseases like ulcerative colitis, Crohn's disease, infections of the GI tract and many others have some symptoms similar to IBS. For example, appearance of blood in the stools which can also be a sign of colon cancer or some other disease. One of the puzzling features of IBS is the absence of gastrointestinal abnormalities. There is no gastrointestinal tract pathology or abnormality to explain the occurrence of the symptoms. Moreover, typically people with IBS also do not suffer from unexplained fever and weight loss, according to Rome criteria for IBS.
IBS is a difficult disease to manage, and people suffering from it are often desperate enough to try any new remedy that they hope might cure the disease. However, the condition is chronic in nature, and no single remedy or abstinence from certain substances and foods can completely cure it. It is vital for people to realize these facts so as not to be misled by the claims of complete cure of this disease.
Disclaimer: This HealthHearty article is for informative purposes only, and should not be used as a replacement for expert medical advice.