April is Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) Awareness Month, a time to focus attention on important health messages regarding IBS, particularly about issues like diagnosis, treatment, and quality of life. But sometimes, due to the nature of IBS symptoms, this disorder isn’t easy to talk about. IBS awareness is necessary to furthering IBS research and learning how to improve care for IBS patients.
What is IBS?
The International Foundation for Functional Gastrointestinal Disorders defines it as “a disorder characterized by abdominal pain or discomfort, and altered bowel habit.”
Did you know…
- IBS may be more common than you think. It’s estimated that 9 to 23% of people worldwide have IBS. It also affects up to 1 in 7 Americans, which is somewhere between 25 to 45 million people.
- Most people who suffer from IBS are under 50 years old.
- Although the exact cause of IBS is not known, the International Foundation for Functional Gastrointestinal Disorders debunks one popular theory–they have found that IBS is not caused by stress. However, if a person has IBS, stress can trigger or worsen symptoms.
- The impact of IBS varies from person to person; while some people suffer only mild inconvenience, others suffer more severe debilitating effects. There are treatments available to help manage IBS symptoms, but not all treatments work for all people.
- For many people, the effects of IBS take a mental toll as well as a physical toll. Those who suffer from severe IBS often struggle with symptoms that affect their emotional and social well-being.
What are the symptoms of IBS?
Symptoms of IBS can vary from person to person, and they often go away and reappear again at a later date. These are some of the more common symptoms:
- Pain or discomfort in the abdomen
- Abdominal bloating
- Constipation and/or diarrhea
IBS can only be diagnosed by a medical professional. If you have any of the above symptoms and/or any other new or unusual digestive symptoms, you should make an appointment to be evaluated by your primary care physician. Your doctor may perform a series of tests to rule out any other gastrointestinal disorders