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What Are the First Signs of Irritable Bowel Syndrome?

Ask First Signs of Irritable Bowel Syndrome Related Articles

Ask a Doctor

I’ve been having problems with constipation and gassiness for more two weeks now. A friend suggested I may have IBS, but I thought that caused diarrhea. What are the first signs of irritable bowel syndrome?

Doctor’s Response

IBS affects each person differently. The hallmark of IBS in adults and children is abdominal discomfort or pain. The following signs and symptoms also are common:

  • Abdominal cramping and pain that are relieved with bowel movements
  • Alternating periods of diarrhea and constipation
    • Those who mostly have diarrhea as a symptom are considered to have IBS with diarrhea (IBS-D), characterized by sudden urges to have bowel movements, along with loose stools, , frequent stools, abdominal pain and discomfort, gas, and the feeling of being unable to completely empty the bowels. In severe cases of IBS-D, individuals may lose control of their bowels.
    • Those who mostly have constipation as a symptom are considered to have IBS with constipation (IBS-C), characterized by passage of hard, lumpy stools, straining during bowel movements, and infrequent stools
  • Change in the stool frequency or consistency
  • Gassiness (flatulence)
  • Passing mucus from the rectum
  • Bloating
  • Abdominal distension
  • Loss of appetite

Though not a symptom of IBS, indigestion affects up to 70% of people with IBS.

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

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Reviewed on 9/13/2018
Sources: References