Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a set of gastrointestinal symptoms such as abdominal pain, discomfort, cramping and bloating occurring together due to the abnormal functioning of the gastrointestinal tract (usually the large intestine).
The gastrointestinal tract is made up of the mouth, esophagus (food pipe), stomach, large and small intestines, and the anus. There are many axillary organs such as the gallbladder, pancreas and liver, which aid in digestion and absorption as food passes from the mouth and wastes exit through the anus. The large intestine is the primary region for food absorption and is lined by a layer of muscle that rhythmically contract and relax to push food particles from the stomach across the intestinal tract.
The exact cause for IBS is unknown; however, in patients with IBS the contraction of the intestinal muscles becomes stronger or overactive. There are other factors that may be responsible for triggering irritable bowel syndrome.
IBS is a chronic disease. While it can be mild and manageable for some, for others it can severely affect their quality of life and interfere with daily activities.
If your symptoms continue for at least three times a month for 3 months, your doctor will review your medical history and perform a physical examination of your abdomen (checking abdominal bloating, tenderness and pain) to diagnose IBS. To confirm IBS, your doctor usually rules out the possibility of other conditions with X-rays, CT scan, colonoscopy and flexible sigmoidoscopy of the abdomen, stools test and blood tests.
When left untreated, severe constipation and diarrhea can lead to hemorrhoids. IBS can lead to severe cases of GI tract conditions such as gastro oesophageal reflux disease and indigestion. In some cases, you can also experience problems related to other parts of your body such as joint disorder, chronic pelvic pain, chronic fatigue syndrome, anxiety and depression.
Since the symptoms of IBS are usually triggered by stress, various therapies to reduce stress are recommended. These may include psychological treatment, hypnosis and behavioral therapy.
Although IBS cannot be cured, with effective treatment and regular monitoring of symptoms, the condition can be controlled and your quality-of-life will improve.