Digestive Health

Diagnosing and Treating Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)

IBS Irritable bowel syndrome is a common disorder that affects the large intestine. Irritable bowel syndrome affects at least 20 million citizens across the country. The condition is not life-threatening however, it can have severe symptoms including abdominal pain, cramping, bloating, gas, and diarrhea. Since IBS can be a long-lasting condition, one needs to change their daily diet and overall routine to manage and reduce its symptoms.

For accurate diagnosis and treatments, the doctors have divided IBS into three types: constipation-predominant, diarrhea-predominant, or mixed. Here are some diagnostic procedures that confirm the symptoms of IBS. Before performing any physical tests, the doctors will as ask the patient a series of questions based on the following two criteria:

  • Rome Criteria
    The criteria include abdominal pain and discomfort which lasts at least one day a week in the last three weeks. It is associated with two factors such as: cramping during defecation and frequency of defecation.
  • Manning Criteria
    It focuses on pain relieved when passing stool or having incomplete bowel movements. The doctors will also ask if the patient is experiencing mucus in the stool and if the stool has changed its consistency.

Based on these criteria, the doctors will perform the following physical exams to determine IBS:

  • Flexible sigmoidoscopy
    This test involves examining the lower part of the colon for symptoms of IBS using a flexible lighted tube called sigmoidoscope.
  • Colonoscopy
    It involves examining the entire colon to look for symptoms such as inflammation, ulcers or any other underlying condition that might cause IBS. This test is usually coupled with upper endoscopy and stool tests to confirm if the patient is suffering from IBS.
  • CT or X-ray Scan
    Computer Tomography or X-ray scans produces images of the abdomen and pelvis that allows the doctor to rule out other causes of the symptoms. The procedure involves filling the patient’s large intestine with liquid barium to make signs and symptoms visible more clearly.

Once confirmed, the doctors will provide the following treatment options based on signs and symptoms of IBS:

  • Lifestyle changes
    The doctors will evaluate if the patient requires dietary changes that might ease the symptoms of IBS. If certain food worsen the symptoms of IBS, the doctors might suggest alternatives to avoid the same. Abdominal pain or discomfort usually occurs in IBS after a heavy meal. In such case, doctors might advise eating smaller portion of meals, stretched in a span of eight hours. Increased stress also results in worsening or onset of IBS and is associated with symptoms such as fatigue and low-energy.
  • Medicines
    If lifestyle changes do not relieve IBS symptoms completely, following medications might helpful. First, antispasmodics have a limited benefit of treating IBS but can help in relieving symptoms such as abdominal pain, and pain or discomfort while eating. Second, anti-diarrheal agents can be effective in relieving or preventing diarrhea symptoms but might not help in relieving from abdominal pain. Lastly, laxative type medications help in treating constipation, but not necessarily the pain associated with IBS. Needless to say, all the above-mentioned medications need to be taken under a doctor’s supervision.