Irritable Bowel Syndrome
Article provided by the National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse

Information on Irritable Bowel Syndrome

What causes irritable bowel syndrome?
What are the symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome?
How is irritable bowel syndrome diagnosed?
What is the treatment for irritable bowel syndrome?
How does stress affect irritable bowel syndrome?
Can changes in diet help irritable bowel syndrome?
Is irritable bowel syndrome linked to other diseases?
Hope Through Research
Points to Remember about irritable bowel syndrome
For More Information on irritable bowel syndrome
 

Irritable bowel syndrome is a disorder that interferes with the normal functions of the large intestine (colon). It is characterized by a group of symptoms--crampy abdominal pain, bloating, constipation, and diarrhea.

One in five Americans has irritable bowel syndrome, making it one of the most common disorders diagnosed by doctors. It occurs more often in women than in men, and it usually begins around age 20.

Irritable bowel syndrome causes a great deal of discomfort and distress, but it does not permanently harm the intestines and does not lead to intestinal bleeding or to any serious disease such as cancer. Most people can control their symptoms with diet, stress management, and medications prescribed by their physician. But for some people, irritable bowel syndrome can be disabling. They may be unable to work, go to social events, or travel even short distances.

Is irritable bowel syndrome linked to other diseases?
Irritable bowel syndrome itself is not a disease. As its name indicates, it is a syndrome--a combination of signs and symptoms. But irritable bowel syndrome has not been shown to lead to any serious, organic diseases, including cancer. Through the years, irritable bowel syndrome has been called by many names, among them colitis, mucous colitis, spastic colon, or spastic bowel. However, no link has been established between irritable bowel syndrome and inflammatory bowel diseases such as Crohn's disease or ulcerative colitis.

Hope Through Research
The NIDDK conducts and supports research into many kinds of digestive disorders, including irritable bowel syndrome. Researchers are studying gastrointestinal motility and sensitivity to find possible treatments for irritable bowel syndrome. These studies include the structure and contraction of gastrointestinal muscles as well as the mechanics of fluid movement through the intestines. Understanding the influence of the nerves, hormones, and inflammation in irritable bowel syndrome may lead to new treatments to better control the symptoms.

Points to Remember

  • Irritable bowel syndrome is a disorder that interferes with the normal functions of the colon. The symptoms are crampy abdominal pain, bloating, constipation, and diarrhea.
  • Irritable bowel syndrome is a common disorder found more often in women than in men and usually begins around age 20.
  • People with irritable bowel syndrome have colons that are more sensitive and react to things that might not bother other people, such as stress, large meals, gas, medicines, certain foods, caffeine, or alcohol.
  • irritable bowel syndrome is diagnosed by its symptoms and by the absence of other diseases.
  • Most people can control their symptoms by taking medicines (laxatives, antidiarrhea medicines, tranquilizers, or antidepressants), reducing stress, and changing their diet.
  • irritable bowel syndrome does not harm the intestines and does not lead to cancer. It is not related to Crohn's disease or ulcerative colitis.
     

 

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