While irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) does not necessarily lead to other illness related to the colon, it does stay with a patient for a long time and requires a modification of lifestyle.
Gastroenterologists and primary-care providers found that 28% and 12% of total patient visits were for symptoms relating to irritable bowel syndrome, though most patients try to avoid treatment for it.
There are both indirect and direct costs related to irritable bowel syndrome due to leaves from work as well as the cost of hospital visits.
The quality of the patient’s life gets severely compromised, and the disease needs medical intervention for complete resolution.
What are the symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome?
When one has irritable bowel syndrome, they may exhibit symptoms like diarrhea, constipation, or a combination of both. A patient may also have pain or cramps in the belly due to this condition. One may feel this pain mostly in the lower part of the belly, and it will intensify after meals. The patient often feels bloated and may get some relief with bowel movements.
The belly protrudes, and the stools are either hard or soft. The symptoms get worse due to stress. Some patients also have problems with urination and sexual performance.
The types of irritable bowel syndrome
Irritable bowel syndrome can be of four types:
- The first kind is irritable bowel syndrome with constipation or IBS-C
- The second type is irritable bowel syndrome with diarrhea or IBS-D
- The third category of irritable bowel syndrome with diarrhea and constipation occurring alternately. It is known as mixed diarrhea or IBS-M.
When the symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome do not fall into any of the above categories, they are usually known as unsubtyped IBS or IBS-U.
Risk factors for irritable bowel syndrome
Women are more susceptible to this condition than men. Women are two times more likely to be affected by it as compared to men. The symptoms usually surface during early childhood, and it is estimated that globally 7 to 10% of the population is afflicted by irritable bowel syndrome.
What causes irritable bowel syndrome?
There is no conclusive evidence to pinpoint what causes the disease. According to studies, the normal rhythm of the bowel muscles has a spasm leading to constipation and diarrhea.
How do doctors diagnose irritable bowel syndrome?
Irritable bowel syndrome is identified by the process of exclusion. The physician will conduct tests for allergies or intolerances to foods. After that, the repercussions from high blood pressure medicines, antacids, and iron are ruled out.
Then, they will examine the possibility of an infection that could have led to these symptoms. The doctor will then try to explore the possibility of an enzyme deficiency that could lead to improper digestion. They may also consider other conditions like Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis.
One may have to undergo some tests to diagnose this condition. Some of them are flexible sigmoidoscopy or colonoscopy to examine blockages or inflammation of the intestine, an upper endoscopy to rule out heartburn or indigestion, blood tests to rule out anemia, infection, or thyroid problems, stool tests to see if there is blood or any infection. A medical professional may also carry out tests for gluten allergy, lactose intolerance, and celiac disease.
Treatment for irritable bowel syndrome
There is no single mode of treatment for patients. It is vital for the doctor and patient to analyze the root cause of the symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome. A multitude of factors could trigger irritable bowel syndrome such as medicines, allergies to certain foods, stress, and so on.
What are the diet and lifestyle changes required for treating the symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome?
The symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome will usually respond to lifestyle and diet changes like:
- Avoiding caffeine
- Consuming a diet that is rich in fiber with the inclusion of fruits, whole grains, vegetables, and nuts
- Drinking at least three to four glasses of water every day
- Quit smoking
- Find ways to reduce stress by learning relaxation techniques or exercising regularly.
- Consuming a limited amount of cheese or milk
- Instead of having three large meals, have smaller meals five times a day
- Keeping an eye on the food that you consume to find out which ones trigger the symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome.
What medications can one take for irritable bowel syndrome?
- To slow down the movement of food, one can take bulking agents like wheat bran, psyllium, or corn fiber.
- To change the bacterial count in the intestine, a doctor may suggest antibiotics like rifaximin. These are usually effective for six months.
- For pain in the abdomen or bloating, one can have antispasmodics, but they have some side effects. Sometimes, antidepressants can relieve the symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome as well. Probiotics, which contain live bacteria, are also helpful.
- For constipation, osmotic laxatives are known to be quite effective. Linaclotide also helps with constipation, but it causes diarrhea. Lubiprostone is usually recommended for women.