Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a common cause of abdominal pain and altered bowel habits. IBS affects 1 in 10 people in the United States and is more common in women than men. IBS is second only to the common cold as a cause of medical absence from work. Though there are a number of theories, the cause of IBS is unknown. However, it is known that IBS does not lead to damage to the GI tract or long term serious health sequelae, though quality of life can be significantly impacted. All patients with IBS experience abdominal pain, though it can vary in quality, location, and intensity. Patient with IBS also experience altered and bothersome bowel habits, with diarrhea, constipation, or a mixed patter. Patient with IBS also frequently complain of bloating, heartburn, nausea, and excess gas.
There is no specific test that can definitively diagnose IBS. Instead, your physician will take a careful history and consider tests to exclude other diagnoses. There is no cure for IBS, though there are treatments that can improve symptoms and quality of life. The therapeutic approach to IBS is multifaceted and includes dietary modification, pharmacotherapy, and potentially behavioral therapy and complementary alternative medicine. Medications for IBS are based on patient’s most troublesome symptoms and can target diarrhea, constipation, and/or pain. A collaborative approach between the physician and patient can usually lead to significant improvement in symptoms and quality of life. The Women’s Center at GCC specializes in the treatment of IBS.
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