Irritable Bowel Syndrome
What is Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)?
Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is one disorder in a spectrum of common functional gastrointestinal disorders. Symptoms of IBS can include constipation, diarrhea, alternating diarrhea and constipation, abdominal pain, urgency, bloating, straining at stools, and a sense of incomplete evacuation.
The Rome III definition for IBS, which is widely accepted in the medical community, is recurrent abdominal pain or discomfort at least three days per month for at least three months, with at least two of the following symptoms also present: improvement of the pain or discomfort with defecation, a change in frequency of stools, or a change also in the form or appearance of stool.
The symptoms of IBS are usually long term, and, although they can cause daily gastrointestinal symptoms, are frequently episodic, meaning that they may not occur on a daily or regular basis. Symptoms may be triggered by specific foods or by stress. Often, however, no specific triggers can be identified.
IBS is much more common in women than men; and the onset of idiopathic IBS symptoms is usually in the teens or young adulthood. Symptoms of IBS can occur as a result of intestinal infection or can be precipitated by major life events.
It is estimated that 10-20% of the Western population has symptoms consistent with IBS, although most (75-80%) never seek medical care. IBS symptoms do account for about 10% of visits to primary care providers, and for 25-50% of referrals to gastroenterologists.