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IBS Center

Irritable Bowel Syndrome Symptoms

Symptoms of IBS
Irritable bowel syndrome is a disorder characterized most commonly by cramping, abdominal pain, bloating, constipation, and diarrhea. Emotional stress often makes symptoms worse.

For most people, IBS is a chronic condition, although there will likely be times when the signs and symptoms are worse and times when they improve or even disappear completely. The signs and symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome can vary widely from person to person and often resemble those of other diseases. Among the most common are:

  • abdominal pain or cramping
  • bloating
  • diarrhea or constipation (sometimes alternating)
  • discomfort in the upper stomach area
  • feeling like you haven't finished a bowel movement
  • feeling uncomfortably full or nauseous after eating a normalsized meal
  • gas (flatulence)
  • heartburn
  • mucus in the stool
  • swollen or bloated stomach area

Other conditions
Other possible conditions whose symptoms are similar to IBs include:

  • celiac disease
  • colon polyps
  • diverticulitis
  • inflammatory bowel disease
  • lactose intolerance

Complications
Diarrhea and constipation, both signs of irritable bowel syndrome, can aggravate hemorrhoids. In addition, if you avoid certain foods as a consequence of IBS, you may not get enough of the nutrients you need and become malnourished.

The most significant complication of IBS may be the condition's impact on overall quality of life. IBS is likely to limit your ability to enjoy a healthy sex life as physical discomfort of IBS may make sexual activity unappealing or even painful. People with IBS also find it difficult to make or keep plans with friends and family. Coping with symptoms away from home may cause you to avoid social engagements. Likewise, people diagnosed with IBS miss three times as many workdays as do people who don't have the condition.

  • hemorrhoids
  • limited sex life
  • limited social life
  • malnutrition
  • professional or work disturbances

When to seek help
Because symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome can occur during other diseases, it's best to discuss these symptoms with your doctor as soon as you notice them. It's also important to see your doctor if you experience persistent change in bowel habits or if you manifest any other signs or symptoms of IBS because these may indicate a more serious condition, such as colon cancer. Be sure to tell your doctor about any worsening signs or symptoms of IBS. Finally, see your doctor if you experience any of the following signs or symptoms:

  • bloody stools
  • indigestion accompanied by shortness of breath, sweating, or pain radiating to your chest, neck or arm (possible heart attack)
  • persistent abdominal pain
  • persistent change in bowel habits
  • persistent indigestion
  • persistent loss of appetite
  • persistent nausea
  • recurrent abdominal pain
  • unexplained weight loss
  • vomiting, especially if accompanied by blood in vomit

The effects of IBS may cause you to feel you're not living life to the fullest, lead to discouragement or even depression. Your doctor may be able to help you find ways to relieve symptoms, avoid possible complications, as well as rule out other more-serious colon conditions. To learn more about ways your doctor can help you diagnose digestive problems, continue reading. We cover irritable bowel syndrome tests and diagnosis options here.

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