Irritable Bowel Disorder
Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is one of the most common chronic disorders of the digestive system. It is associated with symptoms such as belly discomfort, pain and trouble with bowel habits. Irritable bowel disorder has a negative impact on the quality of life of an individual. The symptoms of IBS may last for a few days or few months. It requires long term management. The exact cause of IBS is not known. However, it is exacerbated by stress or eating certain foods. IBS is common among women when compared to men and is more prevalent in working women. Although irritable bowel syndrome may affect people of any age, the symptoms of IBS are more dominant between the age group of 25 and 55 years. Diagnosing this condition at an early stage and providing appropriate treatment may help in reducing the symptoms and severity of the condition.
Signs and symptoms
The most common symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome include:
- Abdominal cramps and pain
- Bloating and swelling of the stomach
- Urge to use the toilet
- Feeling unrelieved even after using the toilet
- Mucus in the stool
If the condition is left untreated, it may exhibit more severe symptoms similar to those of colon cancer. Under such circumstances, one should get tested for colon cancer. Serious symptoms of IBS include:
- Frequent diarrhea
- Weight loss
- Rectal bleeding
- Difficulty swallowing
- Iron deficiency anemia
- Excessive vomiting
- Persistent pain while passing gas or bowel movement
There are no specific tests for the diagnosis of irritable bowel disorder. The diagnosis for the condition is based on the symptoms of IBS. The doctor may recommend tests to rule out other conditions which exhibit symptoms similar to those of irritable bowel syndrome. The diagnostic tests are as follows:
- Blood test: A complete blood picture is done to assess for anemia and infection. Low levels of red blood cells and hemoglobin indicate anemia whereas an increase in the level of white blood cells indicates the presence of infection. Some amount of blood is drawn from the vein and sent to the laboratory. The test results determine the presence of the disease-causing bacteria based on the number, size and shape of the blood cells. Blood test also helps in ruling out the other causes of irritable bowel disorder.
- Stool tests are performed to identify the growth of pathogens. A sample of the stool is taken and cultured in a specific nutrient media which allows the selective growth of the pathogen. These tests help in detecting most common intestinal infections such as Salmonella, Campylobacter and Shigella.
- Lactose tolerance test is done to identify the cause of the inability to digest lactose. It helps in ruling out the cause of irritable bowel disorder.
- Endoscopy is a diagnostic procedure which is used to visualize the upper gastrointestinal tract which includes esophagus, stomach and duodenum. The patient is sprayed with a solution to numb the throat and then the doctor uses a lighted, thin, flexible tube with lens called endoscope to view the inside of the GI tract. This procedure gives a detailed picture of the inside of the upper gastrointestinal tract.
- Colonoscopy is a test performed which uses a camera and a lighted tube that allows the doctor to look directly inside the colon, and stomach. A colonoscopy test is performed for a better evaluation of the condition, to check for the presence of cancer, polyps, inflamed tissues, ulcers etc.
- Imaging tests such as ultrasound and CT scan are performed in a patient suffering from indigestion to get a clear view of the images of the abdominal organs.
Based on the severity of the condition, appropriate treatment such as anti-spasmodic medications and other drugs for treating the symptoms of IBS are prescribed. Also, the doctor may suggest dietary changes such as increased intake of fiber-rich foods.
The preventive measures of irritable bowel syndrome include:
- Follow a healthy diet with food rich in fiber
- Exercise regularly
- Keep yourself calm and stress free
- Perform relaxation and breathing exercises regularly
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- Irritable bowel syndrome (Diagnosis). https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/irritable-bowel-syndrome/diagnosis-treatment/drc-20360064. Accessed on 26-10-2017
- Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) – Treatment. https://www.nhs.uk/Conditions/Irritable-bowel-syndrome/Pages/Treatment.aspx. Accessed on 26-10-2017
- Irritable Bowel Syndrome. https://www.webmd.com/ibs/guide/digestive-diseases-irritable-bowel-syndrome#2. Accessed on 26-10-2017
- Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS). https://www.medicinenet.com/irritable_bowel_syndrome_ibs/article.htm. Accessed on 26-10-2017
- Irritable Bowel Syndrome. https://medlineplus.gov/irritablebowelsyndrome.html. Accessed on 26-10-2017
- Lactose Tolerance Tests. https://labtestsonline.org/understanding/analytes/lactose-tolerance/tab/test. Accessed on 26-10-2017