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Lately, you’ve been feeling a little off. It isn’t noticeable to the outside world, but you are noticing it personally throughout daily activities. Because this has been going on for a long time, you realize that something is wrong and won’t just subside on its own. If this is resonating with you, there is a possibility that you are experiencing Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS). Read on to learn more about this common disorder, and be sure to contact the staff at AGH of Greater Washington to get an expert opinion on the situation.

What Is Irritable Bowel Syndrome?

Irritable Bowel Syndrome is a common condition that affects the large intestine. Irritable Bowel Syndrome is a chronic condition, meaning that it will be recurring and consistent without the proper treatment. While IBS can be treated and helped with medical assistance, it is a condition that currently has no cure. However, some patients are able to control some of the symptoms of IBS with proper dieting, exercise, and stress management, though many patients will need medication and counseling to subdue symptoms.

What Causes Irritable Bowel Syndrome?

While it is apparent that Irritable Bowel Syndrome is real and affects at least a quarter-million people annually, there is no single cause of the condition. Instead, there are factors that play a role in the spurring of IBS. Some of these factors include:

  • Nervous System
    • Poorly coordinated signals between the brain and the intestinal tract causes the body to overreact to changes, leading to pain.
  • Severe Infection
    • A severe bout of gastroenteritis (diarrhea) that is caused by bacteria or virus can instigate IBS.
  • Inflammation in the intestines
    • This leads to immune-system cells flooding the intestinal area, causing both pain and diarrhea.
  • Muscle contractions in the intestines
    • Muscle contractions help move food down your digestive tract. If these contractions are too strong, it leads to gas, bloating and pain; and when they are too weak it can lead to slow digestion and hard stools.
  • Changes in bacteria in the intestines and gut
    • Good bacteria in the intestines are known as microflora. It is known that people with IBS have varying levels of microflora in the body than those with regular systems.

What are the Symptoms of Irritable Bowel Syndrome?

Irritable Bowel Syndrome can affect individuals on varying degrees. That being said, some of the more common symptoms of IBS include:

  • Excess gas
  • Diarrhea or constipation or both (often alternating between the two)
  • Abdominal pain
    • Cramping and bloating that is relieved temporarily with the passing of a stool
  • Mucus in the stool (in severe cases, blood in the stool as well)

How Is Irritable Bowel Syndrome Diagnosed?

Currently, Irritable Bowel Syndrome does not have a definitive diagnosis that can instantly point to it being the main affliction in your life. Your doctor will begin with medical history, tests, and physical exams to help rule out other conditions that would be more prominent along the way. If your IBS is consistent with diarrhea, then you will be tested for gluten intolerance (known as celiac disease).

Once other conditions have been ruled out after numerous tests, your doctor will use several diagnostics criteria:

  • Rome Criteria
    • Abdominal pain and discomfort lasting on average at least one day a week for the past three months.
    • Generally related to passing stools (frequency, consistency, and pain)
  • Manning Criteria
    • Pain relief when stool is passed
    • Incomplete bowel movements
    • Mucus in the stool
    • Changes in pace and consistency
      • More symptoms increases the likelihood of IBS
  • Type of IBS
    • Constipation dominant
    • Diarrhea dominant
    • Mixed

When should you see a Gastroenterologist?

You should see a doctor if you are frequently experiencing any or all of these symptoms of IBS. Consistent bowel changes are a big determining factor, but more severe symptoms can show signs of a more prominent disease. Immediately consult with a doctor if you are experiencing these symptoms:

  • Diarrhea at night
  • Rectal bleeding
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Weight loss (significant and rapid)
  • Persistent pain that isn’t relieved with a stool passing
  • Sudden and unexplained vomiting

Gastroenterology with AGH of Greater Washington

While Irritable Bowel Syndrome can be scary and unsure, you do not have to face the fight alone. AGH of Greater Washington has been delivering specialized IBS services for years, and we pride ourselves on staying committed to all of our patients. If you are concerned about your current bowel movements, or just want to clear your mind of any worries, please do not hesitate to contact us. We hope to hear from you soon!