Will a Colonoscopy Show IBS?

Reviewed on 3/8/2022
Doctor preparing to do a colonoscopy with a colonoscope
A colonoscopy will not detect IBS because there are no changes in the intestinal tissue. IBS is diagnosed with a patient history and a physical exam. Blood tests, stool tests, a hydrogen breath test, and an upper GI endoscopy with a biopsy can help rule out other conditions.

IBS (irritable bowel syndrome) is a condition that affects the digestive system causing symptoms such as abdominal pain, bowel habit changes, excess gas, bloating (abdominal distention), abdominal cramping, and food intolerances. 

There are three different types of IBS

IBS is not the same as Crohn’s disease or colitis, which are separate conditions referred to as inflammatory bowel disease (IBD).

A colonoscopy is both a diagnostic and therapeutic procedure used to examine and treat the rectum, colon, and a portion of the terminal ileum. A colonoscopy is performed with a colonoscope, which is a flexible and steerable instrument used to evaluate the entire colon (large intestine). 

A colonoscopy will not detect IBS. IBS is considered a “functional” disorder because it is a problem with the movement (motility) of the digestive tract rather than a result of damage to the tissues of the digestive system. This means there are no changes in the intestinal tissue, so IBS cannot be detected with a colonoscopy, either visually or through a biopsy.

However, a colonoscopy may be ordered to check for colon cancer or inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) because these conditions can cause similar symptoms. 

IBS is diagnosed with a patient history and a physical exam. Other tests that may be used to diagnose IBS or rule out other conditions include: 

What Are Symptoms of IBS?

Symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) include: 

  • Abdominal pain, often related to bowel movements
  • Changes in bowel movements
  • Bloating
  • Feeling as if a bowel movement is incomplete
  • Whitish mucus in the stool

Women with IBS may have increased symptoms during their periods.

People who have IBS often experience flare-ups of symptoms, which usually last between two to four days before improving or going away. 


What Is the Treatment for IBS?

IBS (irritable bowel syndrome) is treated with changes in diet and lifestyle, medications, probiotics, and therapy. 

Dietary changes may include:

  • Adding more fiber to the diet
  • Avoiding gluten
  • Following a low FODMAP diet
  • Taking probiotics 

Lifestyle changes may include:

  • Increasing physical activity
  • Stress reduction techniques 
  • Getting adequate sleep

Medications used to treat IBS with diarrhea may include:

Medications used to treat IBS with constipation may include:

Other medications used to treat abdominal pain associated with IBS may include:


Digestive Disorders: Common Misconceptions See Slideshow

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Reviewed on 3/8/2022
Image Source: iStock Images