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IBS Symptoms
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IBS Symptoms

Learn More About Three Types of IBS

Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a medical disorder that causes gastrointestinal distress. While doctors don’t know exactly what causes IBS, they do know that it is not caused by a structural problem in the body or by a chemical or physical disorder. Experts theorize that the symptoms of IBS may be caused by colon sensitivity, enhanced perception of gut contractions, hormone changes, or problems with the immune or nervous system. Read on to learn more about the symptoms of IBS and how they are treated.

While symptoms of IBS vary from person to person, they most commonly include pain, cramping, or a bloated feeling in the abdomen; gas, diarrhea, or constipation; and mucus in the stool. Doctors generally divide IBS into three distinct categories. IBS with diarrhea also includes stomach pain, frequent bowel movements, and watery, loose stool. IBS with constipation is characterized by bloating, difficulty moving the bowels, and hard, lumpy stools. The third type of IBS includes alternating struggles with diarrhea and constipation. Though IBS is chronic, these symptoms may come and go and vary in severity.

In addition to these lower gastrointestinal (GI) symptoms, up to half of people with IBS also report upper GI symptoms, including heartburn and acid reflux, nausea, and feeling full quickly when eating. Other occasional, non-GI symptoms of IBS include fatigue, muscle pain, sleep disturbance, and sexual dysfunction.

Because symptoms of IBS often mimic those of other disorders, this syndrome can be difficult to diagnose. However, people who also experience fever, unexplained weight loss, anemia, or blood in the stools typically have another, more serious disorder.

People with IBS are more likely than other people to have additional chronic conditions, including depression, anxiety, fibromyalgia, chest pain, headaches, and sleep disturbances or insomnia. While treatment for IBS depends on the specific symptoms and what other diagnoses are present, it’s typically controlled with a combination of medicine, diet, and exercise.

If you are having symptoms characteristic of IBS, talk with your doctor. He or she will diagnose the disorder by taking a clear, detailed record of the symptoms you’re experiencing, performing a full medical exam, and ordering diagnostic tests if necessary. Generally, IBS is diagnosed when these GI symptoms are present without symptoms that may indicate another disease.

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