Irritable Bowel Syndrome

With diagnosis, treatment and lifestyle changes, you can manage irritable bowel syndrome.


Irritable bowel syndrome is a condition that causes abdominal pain and changes in bowel habits, especially during periods of emotional distress. About 10 to 20 percent of people in the United States have irritable bowel syndrome, but many do not seek treatment. Severity varies from person to person, but the symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome often cause anxiety and, without treatment, can negatively impact a patient’s quality of life.

Irritable bowel syndrome is not the same thing as inflammatory bowel disease, although symptoms may appear similar. Irritable bowel disease is not an inflammation.

Relief from Irritable Bowel

Affinity Health System doctors can help patients with irritable bowel syndrome feel better through diagnosis, treatment and lifestyle modifications. If you have constipation, chronic or frequent diarrhea or abdominal pain, see your primary care doctor. Although bowel habits may seem like an uncomfortable subject to discuss, it’s important to talk to your doctor about your symptoms. Bring a copy of the Irritable Bowel Syndrome Checklist (below) to help you.

Most people with irritable bowel syndrome can manage their condition without invasive tests or procedures. Often, your primary care doctor can help you. If you require further treatment, your doctor can refer you to an Affinity specialist.

Irritable Bowel Syndrome Checklist

Use this easy checklist to discover some of the ways doctors diagnose irritable bowel syndrome. If you believe your symptoms could indicate irritable bowel syndrome, please call your doctor.

Source:  Copyright 2004 UpToDate,
Diagnosis of Irritable Bowel Syndrome

  • You don’t have bowel/digestive system structure or metabolism abnormalities that would explain the symptoms.
  • You have had 12 weeks or more of abdominal discomfort or pain in the last year (not necessarily consecutive) with at least two of these features:
    1. Relieved with bowel movement.
    2. Pain/discomfort starts with a change in the frequency of your bowel movements.
    3. Pain/discomfort is associated with a change in bowel movement form (loose/water or hard/lumpy stool).
  • More than three bowel movements per day OR less than three bowel movements per week.
  • Straining, urgency or feeling like you have not been able to completely evacuate your bowel during a movement.
  • Mucus in your stool.
  • Bloating or abdominal distention.

Reproduced by UpToDate with permission from Thompson, WE, Longstreth, G, Drossman, DA, et. al.  The Functional Gastrointestinal Disorders, 2nd edition, Drossman, DA, Corazziari, E, Talley, ND (Eds),, Degnon Associates, McLean VA 2000. p. 355. Copyright 2000 Degnon Associates.

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