Signs and Symptoms of Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)

Signs and Symptoms of Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)

Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a common disorder that affects between 25 and 45 million Americans, mostly women. IBS is alternatively referred to as “spastic colon” and is a type of gastrointestinal disorder that mainly results in discomforts experienced in the large intestine. Those affected are more likely to experience mild to moderate symptoms from their late teens to their early 40s.

There is no exact cause of IBS since the condition is a result of not one but multiple digestive problems, leading to the initial visible signs of this syndrome:

  • Common infections like gastroenteritis
  • Muscle spasms or contractions
  • A surplus of bacteria in the intestines
  • Poor signal coordination between the brain and the intestines
  • Certain dietary allergies and food sensitivities
  • Hormonal imbalance in the body

IBS is classified into three categories with varying symptoms, based on different patterns of bowel movements; IBS with constipation, IBS with diarrhea, and IBS with mixed bowel movements. These categories will all exhibit different characteristics of the progressive syndrome.

Following are common signs and symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome.

  • Abdominal pain and cramps
  • Whitish mucus observed while passing stools
  • Bloating and gas caused due to passing gas from the digestive system
  • Unexplained changes in bowel habits
  • Incontinence, i.e., lack of control over urination or defecation
  • Backache
  • Lethargy

Apart from the visible signs and symptoms, it is advisable to seek immediate medical attention in case you experience the following discomforts that, if left unchecked, can lead to health complications like colon cancer:

  • Loss of appetite
  • Unexplained vomiting and drastic weight loss
  • Experiencing frequent loose stools at night
  • Bleeding from the rectum
  • Persistent pain caused due to improper bowel movements
  • Developing signs of anemia (low count of red blood cell levels)
  • Lump in the rectum
  • Swelling of the stomach

Diagnostic procedures

  • When it comes to the diagnosis of irritable bowel syndrome, an analysis of your medical history and a number of physical tests are conducted to rule out conditions that exhibit symptoms that are similar to those of irritable bowel syndrome
  • Blood tests and stool tests are conducted to rule out common conditions such as coeliac and inflammatory bowel diseases
  • Flexible sigmoidoscopy, colonoscopy, X-rays, and CT Scans are imaging tests that are conducted to produce images of the colon, abdomen, and pelvis to identify causes of irritable bowel syndrome
  • Lactose intolerance tests, breath tests for bacterial overgrowth, and upper endoscopy are done to identify digestive problems that may lead to developing symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome

Treatment options

  • Treatment of irritable bowel syndrome often includes a combination of medications and self-care therapies to provide long-term relief from mild to moderate symptoms
  • Also, certain lifestyle changes and alternative medications have proven to be effective in managing the condition
  • Fiber supplements, antidiarrheal and anticholinergic medications, and tricyclic and selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors are various classes of medications suggested by doctors to manage IBS symptoms
  • Hypnosis, yoga, meditation, acupuncture, stress reduction, probiotics, and antispasmodic foods like peppermint will form part of alternative therapies for managing signs and symptoms of IBS