Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)
What is Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)?
What is Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)?
Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a disorder affecting the intestine. IBS involves problems with motility (movement of digested food through the intestines) and sensitivity (how the brain interprets signals from the intestinal nerves), leading to abdominal pain, changes in bowel patterns and other symptoms. Although often disruptive, debilitating and embarrassing, it may be some comfort to know that IBS is not life-threatening, nor does it lead to cancer or other more serious illnesses.
Canada has one of the highest rates of IBS in the world, estimated 18% vs 11% globally (Lovell et al. 2012). However, it is thought that IBS often remains under diagnosed. More than 70% indicate that their symptoms interfere with everyday life and 46% report missing work or school due to IBS. (Gastrointestinal Society 2016).
People with IBS frequently report feeling depressed, embarrassed and self-conscious. Their inability to predict symptoms places significant burden on daily living. IBS limits productivity and performance at work, has a negative effect on the quality of relationships, and limits participation in routine social activity (Gastrointestinal Society 2018).
IBS also has a personal financial burden with individuals sometimes trying multiple over-the-counter (OTC) treatments and alternative therapies in their quest to be symptom-free; costs can be significant due to the lack of information about the effectiveness of these purported remedies (Gastrointestinal Society 2018).
The underlying cause of IBS is still unclear and there is no diagnostic disease markers for IBS. Guidelines recommend doctors make a positive diagnosis using criteria that are based on person’s symptoms.
Subtypes of IBS are recognised by the Rome IV criteria based on the person’s reported predominant bowel habit, when not on medications, as follows:
- IBS-C: with predominant constipation (Bristol types 1 and 2).
- IBS-D: with predominant diarrhea (Bristol types 6 and 7).
- IBS-M: with both constipation and diarrhea (Bristol types 1 and 6).
What is IBS-C?
Irritable Bowel Syndrome with constipation, also referred to as IBS-C, is a distressing condition that can significantly affect the quality of life of those affected.
Constipation occurs when digested food moves slowly through the digestive tract. As a result, stool remain in the large intestines for prolonged periods of time where the intestines remove excess water causing stool to become hard, dry, lumpy and difficult to pass.
What is IBS-D?
Irritable Bowel Syndrome with diarrhea is IBS with diarrhea as the primary symptom, also referred to as IBS-D.
People with IBS-D experience frequent abdominal pain and watery bowel movements, and, on occasion, loss of bowel control. In fact, approximately 1 out of every 3 people with IBS-D have loss of bowel control or soiling. This has a strong, negative impact on day-to-day life, however these and other symptoms of IBS-D can be managed.
Sound like you?
You should see your physician. The American Gastroenterology Association (AGA) recommends to patients three steps to improve communication with their physician:
- Speak up early: talk to a doctor as soon as possible after the onset of symptoms, not just with a family or friend
- Speak up completely: detail the symptoms to your HCP. A great way to do this is by downloading our new app to help you track symptoms daily .
- Speak up often: Inform the doctor on the evolution of your symptoms after any new treatment efforts so that alternative treatment approaches can begin.
Gastrointestinal Society. 2018. IBS Global Impact Report 2018. https://badgut-5q10xayth7t3zjokbv.netdna-ssl.com/wp-content/uploads/IBS-Global-Impact-Report.pdf [accessed 3 September 2018]
Gastrointestinal Society. 2016. 2016 Survey Report: Irritable bowel syndrome. https://badgut-5q10xayth7t3zjokbv.netdna-ssl.com/wp-content/uploads/IBS-Survey-Results-2016.pdf [accessed 3 September 2018]
Lovell RM and Ford AC. Global prevalence of and risk factors for irritable bowel syndrome: A meta-analysis. Clin Gastroenterol Hepatol. 2012 Jul;10(7):712-21.e4.