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Irritable Bowel Syndrome (cont.)

Irritable Bowel Syndrome Symptoms

Irritable bowel syndrome affects each person differently. The hallmark of IBS is abdominal discomfort or pain. The following symptoms are also common:

  • Abdominal cramping and pain that are relieved with bowel movements
  • Alternating periods of diarrhea and constipation
  • Change in the stool frequency or consistency
  • Gassiness (flatulence)
  • Passing mucus from the rectum
  • Bloating
  • Abdominal distension

The following are NOT symptoms or characteristics of IBS (but should still be brought to the attention of a physician since they may be signs and symptoms of other conditions):

  • Blood in stools or urine
  • Black or tarry stools
  • Vomiting (rare, though may occasionally accompany nausea)
  • Pain or diarrhea that interrupts sleep
  • Fever
  • Weight loss

When to Seek Medical Care for IBS

If a person has any of the symptoms of IBS as discussed previously, or if a person with known IBS has unusual symptoms, a health care practitioner should be consulted. Go to a hospital emergency department if problems are severe and/or come on suddenly.

Irritable Bowel Syndrome Diagnosis

Irritable bowel syndrome can be a very difficult diagnosis to make. IBS is called a diagnosis of exclusion, which means a doctor considers many other alternatives first, performing tests to rule out other medical problems. Some of these tests may include laboratory studies, imaging studies (such as a CT scan or small intestinal X-rays), or a lower GI endoscopy (colonoscopy). An endoscopy is a procedure in which a flexible tube with a tiny camera on one end is passed into the GI tract while the patient is under conscious sedation.

  • A combination of history, physical examination, and selected tests are used to help diagnose irritable bowel syndrome.
  • No single blood test or x-ray study confirms a diagnosis 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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