Irritable bowel syndrome, also known as the nervous colon, mucus colitis and spastic colitis, is expected to affect between 25 and 45 million Americans. It is a chronic condition that can cause persistent discomfort and pain. IBS is known to be more prevalent in women than in men. Though IBS is not believed to be a life-threatening problem, but it can have a significant impact on the way you live your life. The signs and symptoms of IBS may vary from person to person. Some people are able to control their symptoms by managing diet, stress and lifestyle, however others may require taking counseling and medications from an IBS specialist.
Different Types of Irritable Bowel Syndrome
There are three different types of irritable bowel syndrome based on different patterns of changes in your bowel movements. It is important to consult an IBS specialist to determine which type of IBS you have.
IBS with Constipation (IBS-C)
If you have IBS-C,
- More than a quarter of your stools would be hard or lumpy
- Less than a quarter of your stools would be watery or loose
IBS with constipation comes with discomfort, stomach pain and bloating. You may also experience delayed or infrequent bowel movement.
IBS with Diarrhoea (IBS-D)
When you have IBS with diarrhea,
- Less than a quarter of stools are lumpy or hard
- More than a quarter of your stools are loose or watery
IBS with diarrhoea comes with symptoms of stomach pain, discomfort, abnormal frequent bowel movements or watery or loose stool.
IBS with mixed bowel habits (constipation and diarrhoea)
Patients with IBS- M experience both hard and soft stools more than 25% of the time. Since the bowel habits often vary over time, this is why the IBS-Alternating (IBS-A) is used in place of IBS-M.
What are the Symptoms of Irritable Bowel Syndrome?
The common signs and symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome are mentioned as below:
- Abdominal pains or cramps that get worse after meals
- Gas or bloating
- Harder or looser stools than normal
- Passing of mucus from rectum
- Change in bowel habits
Symptoms are known to get worse after eating. IBS can also affect other parts of the body and can cause- headache, halitosis, frequent urination, joint or muscle pain, irregular menses, sexual dysfunction, persistent fatigue, etc. In some cases, depression and anxiety may also occur because of the discomfort and embarrassment that accompany the condition.
Diagnosis of IBS
Your gastroenterologist consultant will ask for the details which might be bothering you. Your doctor is likely to start with asking your medical history and get a physical exam done to determine the type of IBS you have. One of the diagnostic criteria could be used for diagnosis purposes.
Rome criteria- Rome criteria is used for the diagnosis of irritable bowel syndrome. It requires patients to have recurrent abdominal pain and discomfort that last for at least three months. It is often associated with change in frequency of stool, defecation and change in appearance of stool.
Manning criteria– Manning criteria focus on pain relieved by passing stool and having incomplete bowel movements, changes in stool consistency and mucus in the stool.
Type of IBS– IBS can be divided into three types for treatment purposes. As we discussed earlier, there are three types of IBS- IBS-C, IBS-D and IBS-M.
When to Consult an Irritable Bowel Syndrome Specialist?
Learning to live with IBS is a bit difficult when you have been diagnosed with it. You have to think over what changes to make when any new symptoms pop up. Your doctor will ask you a wide range of questions, such as is the pain related to meals? Do you have frequent bloating? Do you have a feeling of fullness in the rectum? Do you have a history of depression or mental illness? How often you get the pain? Is the pain related to meals? After having a detailed conversation with the patient, a doctor may ask you to carry out the careful abdominal and rectal exam. Not just this, he might ask you to get some lab tests done such as- complete blood count and other blood tests, endoscopy, abdominal x-rays and stool testing for cultures and blood.
Depending on the type of IBS you have, you may be asked to make certain changes in your diet and lifestyle to combat the IBS symptoms. You may be asked to decrease your stress levels, exercise regularly, change the amount of fiber in your diet and identify foods that worsen your symptoms. Sometimes people are also prescribed some medications to help them deal with the symptoms they experience.
An accurate diagnosis of IBS is necessary so that symptoms can be properly managed. Therefore, it makes sense to get in touch with an IBS specialist who can diagnose IBS and help you treat symptoms.