Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a common problem that causes digestive discomfort. It’s not really known precisely what causes it, but it’s essentially a loss of coordination between your gut and your brain on how to manage normal digestive processes, and it can be very uncomfortable and difficult to live with the symptoms.
It can be easy to mistake everyday digestive symptoms for IBS and worry whether you have it or not, so we’re going to set out the common signs that you might have IBS, and when you should see a doctor about it.
The common symptoms of IBS
- Stomach cramps – Pain and discomfort in your abdomen are the most common signs of IBS, particularly just after eating. The pain will probably decrease or go away after a bowel movement.
- Diarrhoea – Some IBS sufferers will regularly experience diarrhoea, often coupled with sudden and immediate urges to go to the toilet.
- Constipation – Some IBS sufferers will regularly experience constipation, and is often the most common form of IBS. This means having only a couple of bowel movements a week.
- Bloating – Excess gas and a consistent feeling of being too full and swollen is a very common symptom of IBS.
- Food intolerances – You may find eating certain foods always comes with a high risk of experiencing some of the above symptoms.
Other possible symptoms
- Excessive flatulence
- Discharge from your anus
- Chronic fatigue
How to tell if it’s IBS
You may experience some or all of the main symptoms of IBS at one time or another, but this doesn’t necessarily mean you have it. If you regularly experience one or two of the above symptoms over a longer period, such as a few weeks or even months, that may be a sign that something isn’t quite right.
Many of the above symptoms also come in pairs or relate to each other – for example, it’s more likely to be IBS if you experience abdominal pain along with loose or infrequent bowel movements, or regular bloating and flatulence.
When to see a doctor about IBS
If you have one or more of the above symptoms and have been experiencing them regularly over a few weeks or more, it’s worth making an appointment with your doctor to see if there are any underlying problems. It might not be IBS, but it’s important to check to see if there are any other issues that may be causing you discomfort.
If you’re experiencing more severe symptoms, along with things like unexplained weight loss or bleeding from the anus, it’s important to make an urgent appointment with your doctor as soon as possible to make sure it’s nothing more serious.
At Ramsay Health Care we offer a full range of diagnosis and treatment options in local private hospitals all over the UK. Don’t hesitate to get in touch if you’d like to talk to one of our specialists.
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