The Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) is a common disorder that is typically characterized by changes in bowel habits along with abdominal pain, diarrhoea or constipation. If not managed, IBS can significantly disrupt a person’s life by affecting his/her daily routine. People might have to miss school, work or social engagements.
IBS affects millions worldwide. Although IBS is not specific to a certain age group, the most commonly affected are people in teens to those in their early 40s. Fortunately, IBS turns severe only for a small percentage of affected people. Most people can control IBS through a better management of diet, stress, and the overall lifestyle. For those with severe conditions, a long-time change in lifestyle habits may be required to return to manage it. Regular exercise, increased fluid intake, adequate sleep, proper medication, and counselling are typically required.
The good news is - IBS doesn't result in any changes to bowel tissues or increase chances of any other ailments related to stomach, intestines or colon.
The most common symptoms that people suffering from IBS go through are:
- Cramps, abdominal pain
- Gas, bloating, potbelly
- Diarrhoea, mucus in stool, and rectal bleeding
- Weight loss
- Iron deficiency – Anaemia
- Difficulty in swallowing
Symptoms may elevate due to conditions of stress, hormonal changes, and certain food items.
Occasional symptoms are not worrisome but, in case of prolonged constipation or diarrhoea, it is advisable to consult a gastroenterologist immediately. If not treated in time, Irritable Bowel Syndrome can cause other complications like:
- Impacted Bowel
- Pregnancy complications
- Bladder problems
Diagnosis of IBS
While there are no specific tests to detect Irritable Bowel Syndrome, gastroenterologists generally refer to a patient’s complete medical history, physical examination and tests to rule out other conditions such as food or medicinal allergies, intolerances, and infections.
After other conditions have been ruled out, doctors may conduct the following tests:
- Flexible sigmoidoscopy
- X-ray (radiography) / CT Scan
- Computerized tomography (CT) scan
- Lactose intolerance tests
- Breath tests for detecting bacterial infections
- Blood tests for detecting anaemia and thyroid problems
- Stool tests for detecting blood and infections
- Upper endoscopy in case of heartburn or indigestion
- Carbonated beverages
Stress, hormonal changes, abnormalities in the gastrointestinal, nervous system, and other conditions such as – diarrhoea or bacterial overgrowth could also trigger IBS. According to various studies, diarrhoea or constipation could also occur due to bowel muscles spasming.
Medications for high blood pressure, iron, and certain antacids also could induce Irritable Bowel Syndrome.
Treatment for IBS
What causes IBS is still not clear, and hence treatment is symptomatic.
In order to treat IBS, it is important that the trigger factor(s) be detected first. Treatment is mainly focused on relieving symptoms so that one can lead a normal life.
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