Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS): Symptoms & Signs

Medically Reviewed on 9/10/2019

The main symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) are

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

  • bloating,
  • 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.

Related Symptoms & Signs

Other irritable bowel syndrome (ibs) symptoms and signs

Next Article
United States. National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse. "Irritable Bowel Syndrome." <>.