Irritable bowel syndrome (also popularly known by its abbreviation IBS) describes a persistent condition where uncomfortable sensations (primarily pain) are felt inside the tummy or abdomen. It often results a change in bowel habit. This condition can happen to anybody regardless of age but it is commonly in people between the ages of 15 to 40. Study has also showed that the prevalence and severity of IBS symptoms are more profound among women patients rather than the men.IBS Overview
IBS is by far among the most common disorders affecting our digestive system. The typical observations include pain in the tummy, bloating or an alteration of bowel habit. It is estimated that one out of every six United Kingdom residents are affected by IBS at one point or another. Consistent with the worldwide trend, IBS symptoms in women are more pronounced in the UK, in comparison to the opposite sex.
Most patients are annoyed with their IBS symptoms but in most of the cases, they are considered as occasional inconveniences, which do not require attention from the doctors. But, if you suspect that your lifestyle is compromised by the presence of these IBS symptoms, you should seek out medical help from your GP. IBS rarely goes away permanently. If you have experienced IBS, it is normal for symptoms to re-emerge from time to time.
The usual complaint by IBS patients is the sharp pain in the abdomen. Sometimes, the pain is preceded by a stomach cramp. Depending on the individual’s tolerance for pain, it may range from a slight discomfort to severe pain. One option to relieve such pain is farting. Further ingestion of food will only exacerbate the pain.
The pain may occur at any time during the day but for a majority of patients, evening hours seem to be the most common time for the pain to strike. For female patients, the intensity of the pain tends to fluctuate with their menstrual cycle.
Altered Bowel Habit
When you are affected by IBS, your feces can range from being loose and watery to hard as a pellet. Stool passing may alternate between diarrhea and constipation. Sometimes, you may feel compelled to open up your bowels due to the built up stress inside your abdomen. Invariably, patients always have a sense that their bowels are not completely cleared.
There could be other symptoms related to IBS and they are:
- excessive wind
- feeling sick
- problems related to the bladder
There is a chance that the experienced symptoms are caused by ailments other than IBS. If you think you are experiencing any of the above-mentioned symptoms, it is advisable to seek help from your doctor.
There is still a lack of medical evidence to point conclusively what causes IBS. It is believed that a combination of the following factors may play a role here:
- Your medical history.
- Frequency and strength of the contractions (or the squeezing actions) of your bowel muscles.
- Your heightened sensitivity to the gas inside your abdomen.
Non-physical factors could also never to be ruled out. Stress, for example, could intensify your IBS symptoms. Stress could be a result of your anxieties related to your work, school, relationship or traumas you experienced in life.
The symptom will likely exacerbate after eating. There are some foods that are detrimental to IBS patients, such as coffee, tea, and fatty substance.
Some antibiotics and NSAIDs (short name for non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) like diclofenac (e.g. Voltarol) and ibuprofen (e.g. Nurofen) are likely to worsen your situation.
The doctor needs to be aware of the symptoms you are suffering from before any meaningful medical examination can be carried out. It is advisable that you share also your medical background.
The usual questions from the doctor are:
- the kind of pain you are going through
- the frequency of such pain
- the time of the day when the pain manifests
- how effectively you are dealing with your pain
- your bowel habit and the ease of it
- a description of your stools
Sometimes, your doctor may order a blood test if necessary. For normal adults age 50 and below, no additional test would be required if your IBS symptoms are consistent with common observations. But if you show one or more of the following more serious bowel conditions, further tests would likely be required:
- reduction in weight
- blood in your stools
- first symptoms only emerged by the age of 60
- a family history related to bowel complications
- sudden diarrhea minus the presence of other symptoms