Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)

Irritable bowel syndrome, or IBS, is a common medical condition that targets the large intestine. IBS affects mostly women and can cause abdominal pain, gas, bloating, cramping, diarrhea and/or constipation. IBS is not considered a serious illness, as it causes no permanent internal damage and does not increase your risk of colon cancer.

Other symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome that the patients typically have include bloating and the feeling of not having emptied the bowels completely, so needing to return to the toilet shortly after a bowel action. Many people with IBS find that their symptoms are made worse by stress and by certain foods.

If you have IBS, your large intestine may be more sensitive to stimulation, so it can spasm for no apparent reason, causing the uncomfortable symptoms mentioned above. The good news is that IBS can be treated (or at least comfortably controlled) with dietary and lifestyle changes, including reducing your stress levels.

Symptoms of Irritable Bowel Syndrome

Symptoms include diarrhea, constipation and sometimes both at different times. You may also suffer from cramps, bloating and gas. You may notice mucus in your stool, another symptom. If you have IBS, you may get an urge to move your bowels, but then nothing comes out.

Often, irritable bowel syndrome symptoms are mild enough to control or abide on your own. Since some of the symptoms of IBS also are symptoms of more serious conditions, however, you should see a gastroenterologist at Central Florida Gastroenterology if the symptoms worsen.

Causes of Irritable Bowel Syndrome

The exact cause or causes of irritable bowel syndrome are unknown. The muscles in your large intestine move food along as your body absorbs the nutrients and fluids. When you have IBS, the muscles don’t work properly, either flushing food too quickly or stagnating with the food stuck there. This dysfunction causes the symptoms described above.

Not everyone is affected the same way, but women report the condition more often than men. Certain foods — such as dairy, chocolate, even fruits and vegetables — can trigger IBS. Artificial sweeteners, alcohol, caffeine and carbonated beverages also might cause the condition. Medicine, such as antibiotics, can contribute to it as well. Stress, hormones and genetics also can play a role in the onset of IBS.

Diagnosing Irritable Bowel Syndrome

If you’re experiencing irritable bowel syndrome, Central Florida Gastroenterology will review your medical history and give you a thorough physical examination. Because its symptoms are similar to those of more serious conditions, a gastroenterologist won’t be able to diagnose IBS until they have eliminated those other conditions. Central Florida Gastroenterology may need to order laboratory tests or perform diagnostic procedures such as a colonoscopy or a flexible sigmoidoscopy.

Central Florida Gastroenterology will look for certain signs such as abdominal pain, mucus in your stool, bloating, a change in the pattern of your bowel movements or the inability to go when you feel the need. Other signs that may point to IBS are fever, vomiting, diarrhea, rectal bleeding or unexplained weight loss.

Treating Irritable Bowel Syndrome

Because there is no known cause of the condition and because it seems to affect different people differently, there is no single treatment that will work on everyone. That’s the bad news. The good news is that many different treatments have worked in the past, so Central Florida Gastroenterology has a range of options to help you.

Treatment can include diet and lifestyle changes, such as eliminating gassy foods and beverages. Other options include a range of medications. Antibiotics, drugs to control diarrhea, and even antidepressants sometimes can help, but two drugs have been approved specifically for IBS sufferers: Alosetron and Lubiprostone.