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Irritable Bowel Syndrome

What is a Irritable Bowel Syndrome?

A "syndrome" is a medical condition that is categorized by a multitude of symptoms. Irritable Bowel Syndrome is a functional bowel disorder of the gastrointestinal (GI) tract. It is characterized by recurrent abdominal pain and discomfort accompanied by alterations in bowel function, diarrhea, constipation or a combination of both, typically over months or years. 

The symptoms of Irritable Bowel Syndrome are responsible for over 3 million yearly visits to physicians in the United States.  Irritable Bowel Syndrome occurs in women more often that it occurs in men. About 70% of people with Irritable Bowel Syndrome are women.

Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is one of the most common ailments of the intestines and affects an estimated 15% of the United States population. It is the most common disease diagnosed by doctors who specialize in medical treatment of disorders of the stomach and intestines.

Irritable bowel syndrome is also called spastic colon, mucous colitis, spastic colitis, nervous stomach, or irritable colon.

Irritable bowel syndrome is generally classified as a "functional" disorder. A functional disorder refers to a disorder or disease where the primary abnormality is an altered physiological function (the way the body works), rather than an identifiable structural or biochemical cause.

Symptoms of Irritable Bowel Syndrome

Irritable bowel syndrome is characterized by a group of symptoms in which abdominal pain or discomfort is associated with a change in bowel pattern, such as loose or more frequent bowel movements, diarrhea, and/or constipation. Some specific symptoms are:

  1. Abnormal stool frequency (may be defined as greater than 3 bowel movements per day and less than 3 bowel movements per week),
  2. Abnormal stool form (lumpy/hard or loose/watery stool)
  3. Abnormal stool passage (straining, urgency, or feeling of incomplete evacuation);
  4. Passage of mucus;
  5. Bloating or feeling of abdominal distension.

Treatment for Irritable Bowel Syndrome

There are many treatment options available to manage IBS. The different treatments treatments depend on whether symptoms are mild, moderate, or severe.

Irritable Bowel Syndrome and Diet

Often, eating a proper diet lessens Irritable Bowel Syndrome symptoms. However, before changing your diet, it is a good idea to keep a journal noting which foods seem to cause distress. Discuss your findings with your doctor and your doctor can help you make the proper diet changes.

How is Irritable Bowel Syndrome Diagnosed?

Irritable Bowel Syndrome can be diagnosed based on at least 12 weeks in the preceding 12 months of abdominal discomfort or pain that has two out of three features:

  1. Relieved with defecation; and/or
  2. Onset associated with a change in frequency of stool; and/or
  3. Onset associated with a change in form (appearance) of stool.

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