Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)

  • Medical Author:
    John P. Cunha, DO, FACOEP

    John P. Cunha, DO, is a U.S. board-certified Emergency Medicine Physician. Dr. Cunha's educational background includes a BS in Biology from Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey, and a DO from the Kansas City University of Medicine and Biosciences in Kansas City, MO. He completed residency training in Emergency Medicine at Newark Beth Israel Medical Center in Newark, New Jersey.

  • Medical Editor: Bhupinder S. Anand, MBBS, MD, DPHIL (OXON)
    Bhupinder S. Anand, MBBS, MD, DPHIL (OXON)

    Bhupinder S. Anand, MBBS, MD, DPHIL (OXON)

    Dr. Anand received MBBS degree from Medical College Amritsar, University of Punjab. He completed his Internal Medicine residency at the Postgraduate Institute of medical Education and Research, Chandigarh, India. He was trained in the field of Gastroenterology and obtained the DPhil degree. Dr. Anand is board-certified in Internal Medicine and Gastroenterology.

Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) Facts

Quick GuideIBS - Irritable Bowel Syndrome: Symptoms, Diet, Treatment

IBS - Irritable Bowel Syndrome: Symptoms, Diet, Treatment

What are irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) symptoms and signs?

Irritable bowel syndrome is characterized mostly by abdominal pain and cramping. Other IBS symptoms and signs include

  • diarrhea (IBS with diarrhea (IBS-D) can come with sudden urges to have bowel movements and loose stools.),
  • constipation (IBS with constipation (IBS-C) can be accompanied by straining during bowel movements and infrequent stools.),
  • increased gas,
  • abdominal swelling or bloating,
  • abdominal pain or discomfort,
  • cramping pain after eating certain foods,
  • nausea,
  • mucousy or foamy stool,
  • unexplained weight loss,
  • loss of appetite.
  • While not technically a symptom of IBS, nearly 70% of people with IBS also experience indigestion.

Symptoms are often relieved by bowel movements. Women with IBS may have more symptoms during their menstrual periods.

What tests do health-care professionals use to diagnose irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)?

Irritable bowel syndrome is diagnosed by excluding other GI disorders that can cause similar symptoms. A complete history and physical is taken to determine the duration and frequency of symptoms. To be diagnosed with IBS, the duration of symptoms should be at least six months and should occur at least three times a month.

A doctor may order tests, including blood tests, stool tests, X-rays, or CT scans. There is no specific finding on these tests that can confirm the diagnosis of IBS, however, other problems can be ruled out by performing them.

A doctor may also send the patient to a gastroenterologist (a specialist in the digestive system). Depending on the symptoms, an upper endoscopy and/or colonoscopy may be performed.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 3/9/2016

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