Exactly what is irritable bowel syndrome? Although some people think that irritable bowel disorders are actually illnesses or diseases, the reality is that the syndrome acts more as a GI tract disorder. It primarily affects how the the gastrointestinal system operates. People living with IBS experience varying symptoms, but the gastrointestinal tract doesn’t usually become permanently damaged as with other GI diseases.
What is Irritable Bowel Syndrome, and is it a common condition?
According to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK), studies indicate that 10 to 15 percent of adults have IBS. Unfortunately, only 5 to 7 percent are actually diagnosed by a doctor with the condition. Another interesting fact is that twice the number of women are affected by irritable bowel syndrome when compared to men.
What to Expect from Your Health Care Provider
When you visit your doctor with signs of IBS, the physician will conduct a complete physical and review your medical history to determine family history of disorders, recent illnesses, stressful events or symptoms that relate to irritable bowel disease.
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Some people are reluctant to discuss symptoms with their doctor especially since they range from mildly inconvenient to extremely debilitating. This disorder was originally known by other terms such as spastic or nervous colon, colitis, spastic bowel and mucous colitis. As the medical field understood the physical and mental aspects of the disorder, the name was changed to reflect the new understanding of the syndrome’s nature.
If you’ve visited your doctor with abdominal discomfort or pain, you probably didn’t receive a diagnosis of IBS until there was a record of abdominal issues at the rate of 3 times a month for the previous 90 days – without any other explanation for the pain. Usually, you will receive an IBS diagnosis when you experience 2 of the 3 following symptoms:
• Bowel movement changes – either occurring more or less frequently than usual.
• Stool changes – appears more loose & watery or hard & lumpy when compared to normal.
• Bowel movement improves pain or discomfort.
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