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Facts about Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)

What is Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)?

IBS is a disturbance of the bowels with symptoms of abdominal pain or discomfort featuring a change in bowel habit - chronic diarrhea or constipation or alteration between the two. Everyone suffers from occasional bowel problems, however, to be diagnosed with IBS, the symptoms will be more severe or occur chronically.

IBS Statistics

Irritable Bowel Syndrome can affect both men and women, however there is a predominance in women. 10-20% of the world's population have symptoms associated with IBS. Mild symptoms affect about 70% of people diagnosed with IBS. Moderate symptoms affect about 25% of people diagnosed. 5% of the people diagnosed report severe symptoms.

Symptoms of IBS

There are no biological tests for IBS. The criteria for diagnosis is based on the set of symptoms. The "Rome III Diagnostic Criteria" is what is used to determine if the symptoms fit.

Rome III Diagnostic Criteria:

"Recurrent abdominal pain or discomfort at least 3 days per month in the last 3 months associated with 2 or more of the following:

  1. Improvement with defecation
  2. Onset associated with a change in frequency of stool
  3. Onset associated with a change in form (appearance) of stool

*Criteria fulfilled for the last 3 months with symptoms onset at least 6 months prior to diagnosis.

**Discomfort means an uncomfortable sensation not described as pain."

Causes of IBS

The above symptoms are caused by an abnormal function of the nerves and muscles in the bowel. They are not caused by stress nor is it a psychological disorder.

IBS Treatment Options

In milder cases of IBS, patients may be counseled on better eating habits and a healthier lifestyle. Medication may be successful for patients suffering from more severe cases of IBS. In either case, working closely with your doctor is recommended to give you the best chance of finding the right solution for your symptoms.

Outlook for IBS

In the past, most therapies have concentrated on relieving individual symptoms. However, new drug therapies are being developed to combat the multiple symptoms of IBS.

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