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Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)

Irritable Bowel Syndrome Overview

Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a chronic gastrointestinal disorder of unknown cause. Common symptoms include abdominal cramping or pain, bloating and gassiness, and altered bowel habits.

Irritable bowel syndrome has also been called spastic colon, functional bowel disease, and mucous colitis. However, IBS is not a true "colitis." The term colitis refers to a different group of conditions known as inflammatory bowel disease (IBD).

Irritable bowel syndrome is not contagious, inherited, or cancerous. It occurs more often in women than in men, and the onset occurs before the age of 35 in about half of the cases.

Irritable Bowel Syndrome Causes

The cause of irritable bowel syndrome is currently unknown. IBS is thought to result from an interplay of abnormal gastrointestinal (GI) tract movements, increased awareness of normal bodily functions, and a change in the nervous system communication between the brain and the GI tract. Abnormal movements of the colon, whether too fast or too slow, are seen in some, but not all, people who have IBS.

Irritable bowel syndrome has also developed after episodes of gastroenteritis.

It has been suggested that IBS is caused by dietary allergies or food sensitivities, but this has never been proven.

Symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome may worsen during periods of stress or menses, but these factors are unlikely to be the cause that leads to the development of IBS.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 11/12/2014
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Read What Your Physician is Reading on Medscape

Irritable Bowel Disease »

Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a functional GI disorder characterized by abdominal pain and altered bowel habits in the absence of specific and unique organic pathology.

Read More on Medscape Reference »


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