Everybody red about IBS or irritable bowel syndrome. It is characterized by chronic abdominal pain, discomfort, bloating, and alteration of bowel habits. Usualy, only a small number of people with irritable bowel syndrome have severe signs and symptoms. Some people can control their symptoms by managing diet, lifestyle and stress. Others will need medication and counseling.
Many times irritable bowel syndrome occurs after an infection, or a stressful life event. Infectious illness may be characterized by two or more of: fever, vomiting, diarrhea, or positive stool culture.
Some signs and symptoms that suggest a need for additional testing include:
- Rectal bleeding
- Weight loss
- Muscle pains
- Anemia related to low iron
- Recurrent vomiting
- Abdominal pain
- Diarrhea that is persistent or awakens you from sleep
A blood sample or stool test is commonly taken to exclude other conditions such as ulcerative colitis, Crohn’s disease, coeliac disease, cancer of the ovary, gut infections, etc. The symptoms of these other diseases can sometimes be confused with IBS. Tests done commonly include:
- Full blood count – to rule out lack of iron in the blood (anaemia), which is associated with various gut disorders.
- Erythrocyte sedimentation rate or C-reactive protein – which can show if there is inflammation in the body (which does not occur with IBS).
- A blood test for coeliac disease.
- In women, a blood test to rule out cancer of the ovary, called CA-125.
- A stool test to look for a protein called faecal calprotectin. This may be present if you have Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis, but is not present in IBS.
That’s why patient education and good doctor–patient relationships are very important to keep things under control when we talk about irritable bowel syndrome or IBS.
- There are 10 important questions to ask your doctor about irritable bowel syndrome.
- Should I take prescription medications for my symptoms?
- Should I eat a high-fiber diet?
- Could some other condition be causing my IBS symptoms? Make sure to ask about colon cancer.
- Should I be keeping an IBS symptom diary?
- What other dietary changes do you recommend for IBS, and should I consult a dietitian?
- Should I take laxatives or other over-the-counter medications for my IBS?
- If so, what type, how often, and what are the risks?
- Could relaxation therapy, counseling, or exercise help my IBS symptoms?
- What side effects should I expect?
- How soon should I have a follow-up appointment?