Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is usually a long-term disorder of the intestines which may cause:
- belly pain
- mucus in the stools
- a feeling that you have not completely emptied your bowels
IBS does not worsen over time, nor does it cause more serious diseases such as inflammatory bowel disease or cancer. However, the severity of your symptoms may be better or worse from day to day. Fortunately there are things you can do to reduce your symptoms.
Many doctors believe IBS is caused by mixed signals between the brain and the intestines. This causes problems with the way the muscles of the intestines move. Though no one is entirely certain whether this is the cause of IBS or not, what is understood is that the movement of the digestive tract does not work as it should.
For some people with IBS, stress, certain foods, antibiotics or hormonal changes can trigger symptoms.
Most people's IBS symptoms are so mild that they never see a doctor for treatment. But IBS is quite common, and some people may have severe pain and symptoms which alternate between constipation and diarrhea. For most people, one of these two symptoms is more pronounced than the other.
Most of the time, doctors can diagnose IBS from a description of your symptoms. Your doctor will ask you several questions and perform a physical exam. In some cases, you may need a stool analysis or a sigmoidoscopy. These tests help your doctor rule out other problems that could cause your symptoms.
Dietary and lifestyle changes, such as avoiding foods that trigger your symptoms or exercising regularly, can often manage IBS symptoms. If diet and lifestyle changes do not relieve your symptoms, talk to your doctor about medicines that could help.