irritable bowel syndrome IBS

overview

If you’ve got IBS, you’re not alone. Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a common, usually chronic (long-term) colon condition that results in stomach pain, cramping, bloating, constipation or diarrhea. However, it doesn’t cause any permanent damage to the colon or increase the risk of colon cancer, and it can be managed with lifestyle and diet changes. Doctors don’t know exactly what causes IBS, but it’s related to abnormalities in the digestive system. Nervous-system abnormalities that relate to the digestive system may also be involved in IBS.

symptoms

Symptoms of IBS vary and can be mild or severe. They may include:

  • Bloating
  • Cramping
  • Constipation
  • Diarrhea
If you’re concerned about symptoms, call your doctor to schedule an appointment.

diagnosis

To diagnose IBS, your doctor will use a set of guidelines called the Rome criteria. This means stomach pain or discomfort must last 12 weeks or longer in total, and 2 or more of the following symptoms must be present:

  • A straining, feeling of urgency or feeling like the bowels don't completely empty
  • A change in the consistency or frequency of stools
  • Stomach bloating
  • Mucus in stools
Your doctor may order tests including:

  • Blood tests
  • Fecal occult blood test (to find out if there’s blood in the stool)
  • Tests to check for lactose intolerance
  • Flexible sigmoidoscopy: A flexible tube is inserted in the anus to see inside the digestive system
  • Colonoscopy
  • Capsule endoscopy: A patient swallows a capsule that contains a tiny camera that takes pictures of the digestive tract.
  • Imaging tests, including a CT (computed tomography) scan

services & treatment

If you have IBS, your Aurora care team will work with you to determine the best course of treatment, which focuses on treating symptoms to improve the quality of your life. A big part of that is managing stress, which triggers IBS for many sufferers. Treatment may include relaxation exercises, deep breathing, biofeedback, counseling or therapy (which may lead to a prescription for antidepressant medication). Other lifestyle changes include:

  • Eliminating foods that cause gas
  • Antibiotic medication
  • Fiber supplements
  • Anti-diarrheal medication
  • Anticholinergic medication, which relieves bowel spasms
  • IBS-specific medication for severe cases that haven’t been relieved by other treatments. This includes lubiprostone for IBS with constipation and alosetron to relax the colon in female patients with severe diarrhea. Both of these drugs have side effects, and are intended for severe cases of IBS.

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