Irritable Bowel Syndrome is also known as spastic colon or an irritable colon. This is a functional disorder of the bowel. This disorder is characterized by diarrhea alternating with constipation, chronic abdominal pain, abdominal discomfort and bloating. It seems that people suffering from irritable bowel syndrome have sensitive bowels that are easily go into a state of disorder and produce the bowel symptoms. When all other possible causes of the abdominal symptoms and the irregular bowel habits are ruled out, then the diagnosis of irritable bowel syndrome is made. Studies have often linked the onset of irritable bowel syndrome to change in diet or an erratic diet, post traumatic stress, stressful life events or after an infection. In some cases, this disorder of the bowel can also be linked to the onset of maturity in the absence of any organic cause.
Incidence of Irritable Bowel Syndrome
Women are more likely to develop irritable bowel syndrome as compared to men. The symptoms begin to appear in childhood. However, people above the age of 40 are also at an increased risk of developing this condition.
Types of Irritable Bowel Syndrome
Irritable bowel syndrome can be divided into three major categories on the basis of the symptoms:
- Constipation predominant irritable bowel syndrome
- Diarrhea predominant irritable bowel syndrome
- Alternating diarrhea and constipation
Diagnosis of Irritable Bowel Syndrome
If a person continues to suffer from irregular bowel habits such as diarrhea alternating with constipation, frequent bloating of the abdomen and chronic abdominal pain, then he should see his health care professional. There are many diseases that produce the symptoms that are similar to irritable bowel syndrome. These diseases include diverticulitis, inflammatory bowel disease or polyps. Diverticulitis is a common digestive disease characterized by an increase in the white blood cell count, fever and pain in the lower abdomen. The symptoms are again similar to irritable bowel syndrome as there is nausea and diarrhea and abdominal bloating. Coeliac disease is characterized by an immune intolerance to gluten. Gluten is present in wheat and other grains. The symptoms of coeliac disease are much similar to irritable bowel syndrome.
A condition known as lactose intolerance or an inability to digest sugars from milk and dairy products also has similar symptoms such as bloating, cramps and diarrhea and may mimic irritable bowel syndrome. There may be other serious conditions that can produce similar symptoms, such as colon cancer. So diagnosis is established after all other possible causes are ruled out.
As a result of this, the doctor may order a variety of laboratory tests and procedures. These include:
- General physical examination of the affected person at the doctor’s clinic
- Routine blood tests
- Routine urine tests
- Stool examination
- Ultrasound examination of the abdomen
- Sigmoidoscopy is a procedure in which there is investigation of the bowel lining by inserting a small tube
- Colonoscopy is a procedure in which there is investigation of the bowel under sedation