Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS or spastic colon) is a functional bowel disorder characterized by chronic abdominal pain, discomfort, bloating, and alteration of bowel habits without any detectable organic cause. IBS may begin after an infection, a stressful life event, or onset of maturity without any other medical indicators.
The prevalence of IBS varies by country and by age range examined. In North America the prevalence of IBS is between 6 and 15% of the population.
Common symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) include:
Some patients with IBS experience alternating diarrhea and constipation. Mucus also may be present around or within the stool. In some cases, the symptoms are relieved by bowel movements.
IBS does not lead to more serious conditions in most patients. However, it is a source of chronic pain, fatigue, and other symptoms, and it increases a patient's medical costs, and contributes to work absenteeism. It is also regarded as a chronic illness and can dramatically affect the quality of a sufferer's life.
Although there is no cure for IBS, there are treatments that attempt to relieve symptoms, including dietary adjustments, medication and psychological interventions.
Several conditions may present as IBS including:
In IBS, routine clinical tests yield no abnormalities. The exact cause of IBS is unknown.
A number of treatments have been found to be helpful in treating IBS, including fiber, antispasmodics, and peppermint oil. Avoiding foods that cause symptoms is recommended.
Medications such as stool softeners and laxatives in constipation-predominant IBS, and antidiarrheals in diarrhea-predominant IBS can relieve mild symptoms. Drugs affecting serotonin in the intestines can also help reduce symptoms.