Do you suffer from symptoms of abdominal pain, bloating, constipation and/or diarrhea? If you do, you are not alone. You may have a condition called Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS). IBS affects between 25 and 45 million people in the United States. About two in three IBS sufferers are female and one in three is male.
The exact cause of IBS is unknown; however, it is believed that symptoms may result from a disturbance in the way the gut, brain, and nervous system interact. These can cause changes in normal bowel movements and sensation.
Approximately 20-40 percent of all visits to a gastroenterologist are due to IBS symptoms. IBS is not life-threatening but is associated with significant impact on quality of life and economic burden. For example, symptoms of IBS are one of the leading causes of absenteeism from work, second only to the common cold.
While abdominal pain and changes in bowel habits (change in frequency and appearance of stool) are the most common symptoms associated with IBS, some others include nausea, fullness, bloating, feelings of urgency (need to find a restroom fast), and feelings of never fully emptying the bowels. Sometimes non-GI symptoms such as fatigue, muscle pain, and sleep disturbance may also overlap.
There is no one test that will confirm the diagnosis of IBS. Typical symptoms, however, are generally recognized by a healthcare provider. The most important first step in treating and managing your symptoms is to see your provider.
The primary treatment for IBS includes managing distressing symptoms. This often involves a combination of dietary and lifestyle modifications as well as prescription and/or over-the-counter treatments.
If you believe that you may suffer from IBS, we strongly encourage you make an appointment with your healthcare provider or call us at New Hampshire Gastroenterology at 603.625.5744. You don’t have to suffer alone. Together, we can work to minimize your symptoms and help improve your quality of life.
International Foundation for Functional Gastrointestinal Disorders (IFFGD.ORG) is a primary source of information for this article.