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Irritable Bowel Syndrome

Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a common disorder that develops when muscles in your large intestine (or colon) contract too slowly or quickly.

Symptoms

  • Abdominal pain or cramping
  • Constipation or diarrhea
  • Gas

Irritable bowel syndrome is not pleasant to deal with because symptoms can arise suddenly.

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Who is at risk?

Irritable bowel syndrome affects both men and women, usually at an earlier age than other intestinal diseases.

The risk for women is sometimes higher because IBS has been related to hormone changes. Women who suffer from IBS are more likely to experience flare-ups most often around the beginning of their menstrual cycle.

Family history can also play a role in irritable bowel syndrome.

Prevention

Because IBS is often triggered by stress, seeking counseling, exercising, or practicing other relaxation activities can help reduce stress and prevent or alleviate symptoms.

Screening

Because IBS shares the same symptoms with other intestinal conditions, your doctor may perform a colonoscopy to rule out a more serious disorder.

What is a colonoscopy?
During a colonoscopy, your doctor uses a thin, flexible tube attached to a camera to examine your entire colon. If any suspicious areas are found, your doctor can take a small tissue sample (biopsy) for analysis.

Treatment

Unlike more serious intestinal diseases such as ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease, IBS doesn’t cause permanent damage or increase your risk for colorectal cancer. Many find that they can control IBS and its symptoms by managing stress and diet (especially your intake of dairy and caffeine).