Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a disorder in which abdominal discomfort or pain is associated with a range of symptoms. Typically, these include intermittent abdominal pain accompanied by diarrhea, constipation, or alternating episodes of both. Bloating or distention of the abdomen is also common, and other symptoms may be present as well.
In IBS, the normal functioning of the bowels are affected and don't work properly.
Sometimes motility is abnormal – the bowels move too much or too often, and sometimes they don't move enough or often enough.
Usually sensory perception is abnormal – the nerves in the bowels are more sensitive to stretch or movement and this can lead to more pain.
These abnormalities may in turn relate to disordered brain-gut communication, genetic factors, infection and altered gut bacteria, and intestinal inflammation.
Importantly with IBS there are no visible abnormalities seen by x-ray or endoscopy.
A knowledgeable physician can diagnose IBS by careful review of your symptoms, a physical examination, and selected diagnostic procedures that are often limited to a few basic tests.
IBS is a long-term, or chronic, condition. The first line of treatment for IBS includes general measures such as:
- establishing an effective patient-physician relationship,
- obtaining education about IBS, and
- implementing lifestyle changes, which may be associated with symptoms.
If lifestyle changes do not completely relieve IBS symptoms, a number of medications and/or other therapies may be helpful.