Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a common condition of the digestive system, with symptoms that can include stomach cramps, bloating, diarrhoea and constipation.
It’s a long-term condition and its symptoms tend to come and go in ‘bouts’; the symptoms can also be more severe, or last longer, in some people than others.
While the exact causes of IBS are not known, it is thought that up to one in five people are affected by IBS at some point in their lives. The first symptoms usually appear between the ages of 20 and 30, and women are twice as likely as men to develop the symptoms of IBS, so young women should be especially vigilant about any symptoms they have.
While IBS may sound like a very difficult condition to live with, it is in fact very manageable with some changes to your diet and lifestyle, as well as IBS treatments, but a correct diagnosis is very important. Recently we published a blog post featuring an IBSon common myths about the condition; in this blog post we’ll talk about the signs and symptoms of IBS that you should look for, and how to go about getting the condition properly diagnosed and treated.
Spotting the signs of irritable bowel syndrome
Any person living with IBS will tell you that the symptoms can be very hard to miss – but without a proper diagnosis IBS can be confused with many other conditions.
The most common symptoms of IBS are:
· Pain in the stomach (abdomen) and cramps, which may go away after opening your bowels
· Having diarrhoea, constipation, or sometimes both at the same time
· A very bloated and swollen stomach
· Excess wind
· Sometimes feeling a very urgent need to open your bowels
· Feeling that you haven’t fully emptied your bowels after doing so
· Passing mucus when you open your bowels
· Any of the above symptoms coming on very suddenly, in varying severities and lengths of time
However, IBS can also present some other less common symptoms and problems, which may include:
· Feeling very lethargic, or low in energy
· Feeling sick
· Bladder problems, such as waking up in the night to urinate, feeling like you urgently need to urinate, and/or difficulty in completely emptying your bladder
As you may imagine, IBS can directly impact your everyday life, especially during a bad flare-up. It is also not uncommon for people with IBS to feel depressed or anxious as a result of living with the condition, but it doesn’t have to be this way. Getting your condition properly diagnosed and treated is absolutely crucial so that you can get on with your life – don’t let your IBS hold you back!
Diagnosing IBS and getting it treated
If you think that you may have any of the symptoms of IBS, you should speak to your GP as soon as possible so that they can discuss them with you. IBS can’t be tested for as it doesn’t cause any detectable abnormalities in your digestive system, but your GP can determine whether the symptoms you have are those of IBS, or arrange tests to rule out other conditions that may be causing your symptoms if they aren’t sure.
Should your GP confirm that you do have the symptoms of IBS, they will also look for possible causes. It’s not known what exactly causes IBS in everyone, but lifestyle and diet factors can have an impact – for example, feeling stressed, and certain foods and drinks are all known triggers for IBS symptoms.
Your GP will help you to make the changes in your lifestyle and diet to manage your IBS, as part of a long-term treatment plan. They will also prescribe any medication that they believe is necessary, as well as recommend over-the-counter IBS treatments that you can take alongside them – we have a great range of non-prescription IBS treatments and IBS relief products available for you to order online, with fast and discreet delivery for your peace of mind.
For more information and advice about IBS, take a look in the Rowlands Pharmacy Advice Centre.