Symptoms and Signs of IBD vs. IBS

Medical Author:
Medically Reviewed on 5/21/2022

Doctor's Notes on IBD vs. IBS

Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) is chronic inflammation of any part of the digestive tract (from mouth to anus) and has two main types, ulcerative colitis and Crohn's disease. Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is considered a chronic functional disorder of the GI tract because in people with the disease, the GI tract acts abnormally, but there is no structural damage from a specific disease. Signs and symptoms unique to IBD include

Signs and symptoms unique to IBS include

  • non-bloody diarrhea,
  • abdominal discomfort (not severe or chronic),
  • gas,
  • bloating,
  • changes in bowel frequency and stool appearance,
  • pain or discomfort that improves after a bowel movement,
  • constipation,
  • feeling unable to empty bowels, and
  • mucus in stools.

Possible causes for IBD include autoimmune response or immune over-reaction and/or genetics. Possible causes of IBS include brain-gut signal problems, GI motility problems, high GI pain sensitivity, altered levels of neurotransmitters, food sensitivities, small intestinal bacterial overgrowth, GI bacterial infection, and/or genetics.

What Are the Treatments for IBD vs. IBS?

The treatments for IBS focus on relieving symptoms; this is done mainly by diet changes and stress reduction. In addition, medications approved for IBS include the following:

In contrast, IBD focuses on reducing inflammation of bowel tissue with the following drug therapy or surgery:

Ask your doctor if you have any questions about IBD vs. IBS.

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Kasper, D.L., et al., eds. Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine, 19th Ed. United States: McGraw-Hill Education, 2015.