Diagnosing and Treating Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a gastrointestinal disorder estimated to affect between 10 and 15 percent of the population. IBS is characterized by abdominal pain, cramping, bloating, constipation, and diarrhea.
IBS can be difficult to diagnose because its symptoms are similar to those of other disorders, such as Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis. Treatment involves lifestyle changes, medications, and therapy.
Causes of IBS
There is still much unknown about what causes IBS. Some of the potential causes include, but are not limited to:
1. Psychological factors such as stress and anxiety: Psychological factors, such as stress and anxiety, can play a role in developing IBS. Stress can cause changes in the gut muscles and lead to symptoms of IBS. Anxiety can also lead to changes in the gut and worsen symptoms.
2. Hormonal changes- such as those that occur during menstrual cycles or menopause: One of the challenges in diagnosing IBS is that the symptoms can result from various factors, including changes in hormone levels.
For example, many women experience worsened IBS symptoms around their menstrual cycle due to fluctuations in estrogen and progesterone levels. And menopause can also cause hormonal changes that lead to bothersome IBS symptoms.
3. Food intolerances or sensitivities. Food intolerances and sensitivities are becoming more common these days. Some people may have a mild intolerance to a food, while others may have a more severe reaction.
Symptoms of food intolerances can vary greatly and can include everything from gastrointestinal problems to skin rashes.
The best way to determine whether you have a food intolerance or sensitivity is through an elimination diet. This involves removing all potential triggers from your diet for some time and then reintroducing them one at a time.
4. Bacterial overgrowth in the small intestine: Bacterial overgrowth in the small intestine occurs when there is an increase in the number of bacteria in the small intestine. This can cause gas, bloating, and diarrhea.
Bacterial overgrowth can occur by various factors, including antibiotics, surgery, and diabetes.
If you have IBS and experience symptoms of bacterial overgrowth, your doctor may order a test called a breath test to diagnose the problem. A breath test measures the amount of hydrogen gas in your breath. If you have bacterial overgrowth, you will exhale high hydrogen gas levels.
5. Abnormal muscle contractions in the intestines: Abnormal muscle contractions in the intestines can contribute to IBS symptoms. These contractions can cause the intestines to move too quickly or too slowly, leading to pain, cramping, and changes in bowel habits.
Several treatments available for IBS help control these abnormal muscle contractions. These treatments include medication such as antispasmodics and antidepressants, dietary changes, and lifestyle modifications.
6. Severe infection. Severe infection is a possible complication of IBS that can occur when the large intestine becomes inflamed and irritated. This can lead to a painful condition called sepsis, a potentially life-threatening infection in the blood.
If you have IBS and develop any signs or symptoms of sepsis, such as fever, chills, rapid breathing, or confusion, seek medical attention right away.
Symptoms of IBS
IBS symptoms can include abdominal pain, cramping, bloating, diarrhea, and constipation. IBS is a chronic condition that you will likely have for the rest of your life. However, some treatments can help lessen your symptoms.
IBS can be difficult to diagnose because its symptoms are similar to other conditions, such as Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis.
There is no definitive test for IBS. Instead, a diagnosis of IBS is made based on a combination of symptoms and diagnostic tests. The Rome criteria are the most commonly used guidelines for diagnosing IBS.
To meet the Rome criteria, a person must have recurrent episodes of abdominal pain or discomfort associated with changes in bowel habits for at least a week over the last three months.
There are three main types of IBS: constipation-predominant (IBS-C), diarrhea-predominant (IBS-D), and mixed (IBS-M).
Also, a colonoscopy, a CT scan, and an upper endoscopy may be necessary to rule out other diseases. It is possible to do a stool test to look for infection or celiac disease signs. It is also possible to do a lactose intolerance test.
Treatment for IBS
There is no cure for IBS, but there are treatments that can help control the symptoms.
Some treatments include dietary changes, medications, and probiotics.
Dietary changes can include eating more fiber and limiting caffeine and dairy products.
Medications can include laxatives and antidiarrheal medications. Probiotics are supplements that contain bacteria that help improve gut health.
When You Need to go to ER for IBS?
It can be challenging to determine when to visit an ER for IBS. In some cases, people may only experience mild symptoms and may not feel the need to seek medical help.
However, several warning signs can indicate that you need to visit our ER. These include weight loss, rectal bleeding, fever, nausea, and persistent diarrhea.
If you are experiencing abdominal pain that is not related to IBS, it is also essential to seek medical help. This type of pain can signify a more severe problem and should not go unnoticed.
It is also essential to get medical help if you have any other symptoms worrying you or seem unusual. These could include changes in bowel habits, fatigue, and mood swings.