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Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) (cont.)

When To Call a Doctor

Call your doctor or other health professional if:

  • You have been diagnosed with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and your symptoms become worse, begin to disrupt your activities, or do not respond as usual to your home treatment.
  • You are becoming more tired than usual.
  • Your symptoms wake you from sleep.
  • You have unexplained weight loss.
  • You have decreased appetite.
  • You have abdominal pain that is not associated with changes in bowel function or that is not relieved when you pass gas or a stool.
  • You have abdominal pain that is now in one area (localized) more than any other area.
  • You see blood in your stool.

Watchful Waiting

Watchful waiting is not appropriate if you have any "alarm symptoms," which could mean a serious problem. Alarm symptoms include:

If none of the symptoms listed above is present, try to rule out other causes of abdominal problems, such as eating a new food; eating sugar-rich foods, especially milk products; eating foods containing sorbitol or other artificial sweeteners; nervousness; or stomach flu. Try home treatment for 1 or 2 weeks. If your symptoms don't get better or if they get worse, call your health professional.

An occasional case of upset stomach, diarrhea, or constipation is common, especially during stressful times. Symptoms of stomach pain, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea that come on quickly and that go away on their own are more likely to be caused by stomach flu or food poisoning, especially if other people around you are also sick.

Who To See

The following health professionals can diagnose and treat irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).

If more tests are needed or your symptoms do not respond to initial therapy, it may be helpful to see a doctor who specializes in treating digestive system problems (gastroenterologist). If stress may be playing a role in IBS, it may be helpful to see a psychiatrist or psychologist.

To prepare for your appointment, see the topic Making the Most of Your Appointment.

eMedicineHealth Medical Reference from Healthwise

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