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Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)

ibs_medical_guideIrritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) is a disease with chronic or recurrent
gastrointestinal symptoms for which no cause can be found.
In IBS there is no abnormality in the colon or small bowel.

Symptoms

• Relief of abdominal pain after stools
• Loose stools with the onset of pain
• Frequent bowel movements with the onset of pain
• Abdominal bloating or distention
• Feeling of incomplete evacuation
• Passage of mucus along with stools
Other symptoms include: nausea, feeling full after eating only a small meal, and fatigue.  The severity and frequency of symptoms can vary. Abdominal pain or discomfort varies from intermittent abdominal discomfort to severe continuous abdominal pain. Diarrhoea, constipation, or alternating between the two may be the predominant bowel pattern.

The symptoms of IBS differ from the symptoms of Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) in that there is no trace of blood in the stool, or historv of fevers or chills.

Causes

Stress can affect the functioning of the gastrointestinal tract.  It has an important role in precipitating the symptoms of IBS.  Up to 60 per cent of IBS patients associate onset of the disease or its exacerbation with stressful life events. Significant life changes which demand social and personal adjustments such as moving to a new job or a new city can also precipitate or exacerbate IBS. Anxiety and depression are present in 40 to 60 per cent of IBS patients.

Diagnosis

Diagnosis is predominantly based on the patient’s complaints. If a patient has at least 3 months of continuous or recurrent symptoms of:

1. Abdominal pain or discomfort that is:
• Relieved with defecation and/or
• Associated with a change in frequency of stool and/or
• Associated with a change in consistency of stool

2. Two or more of the following, at least on one-fourth of occasions or days:

• Altered stool frequency
• Altered stool form (e.g. watery/loose stools or hard stools)
• Altered stool passage (e.g. sensations of incomplete evacuation after bowel movements, straining, or urgency)
• Passage of mucus and/or
• Bloating or feeling of abdominal distention.

However, to exclude other diseases which can produce similar symptoms, some tests can be conducted:

• Lower G.I. X-ray (barium enema)
• Small bowel series X-ray (barium follow through)
• Sigmoidoscopy and/or colonoscopy

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