The main symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) are
- abdominal pain or discomfort,
- a change in bowel habits.
The change in bowel habits may result in having too frequent stools or having bowel movements less often than usual. The consistency of the stool may be different than usual; it may be watery, or it may be harder or more lumpy than usual. Diarrhea (having loose stools three or more times a day, accompanied by a sense of urgency) can be a symptom of IBS. Likewise, constipation (straining to have a bowel movement or having less than three stools per week) may also occur. Some patients experience alternating episodes of diarrhea and constipation.
Other symptoms sometimes seen with IBS include
- passing mucus along with stools,
- a sense that their bowel movements are not complete, and
- flatulence (passing gas).
When abdominal pain or discomfort occurs, it is often relieved by having a bowel movement.
Causes of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
The exact cause of irritable bowel syndrome is unknown. It is believed to be due to a number of factors, including changes in gastrointestinal (GI) tract motility, abnormal nervous system signals, heightened sensitivity to pain, and food intolerances. Many people with IBS suffer from anxiety or depression, but these conditions have not been shown to cause IBS. A hereditary (inherited) cause for IBS has not been proven.
United States. National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse. "Irritable Bowel Syndrome." <http://digestive.niddk.nih.gov/ddiseases/pubs/ibs/>.
Main Article on Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) Symptoms and Signs
Pictures, Images, Illustrations & Quizzes
IBS - Irritable Bowel Syndrome: Symptoms, Diet, Treatment
What is irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)? Learn about symptoms, causes, and foods that trigger IBS. Get lifestyle tips for managing...
Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) Quiz: Test Your Medical IQ
What are symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)? Take this quiz and get quick facts on causes and treatment options for this...
Pelvic Pain: What's Causing Your Pelvic Pain?
There are many causes of pelvic pain in women including cysts, PMS, appendicitis, and bladder infections. Pelvic pain has...
Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) Symptoms and Signs
Examples of Medications for Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) Symptoms and Signs
Subscribe to MedicineNet's General Health Newsletter