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Understanding Irritable Bowel Syndrome: Symptoms, Causes, and Diagnosis

Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) is a prevalent digestive disorder characterized by symptoms primarily related to the digestive system without underlying structural damage or signs of inflammation or intestinal diseases. Tailoring therapies to address the specific symptoms of each individual with IBS is crucial for ensuring effectiveness and improving the quality of life for those affected.

1. What is Irritable Bowel Syndrome?

IBS is a common condition affecting the intestines, causing discomfort without causing structural damage or inflammation. The most common symptoms include recurrent abdominal pain, changes in bowel habits, bloating, and abdominal discomfort.

IBS significantly impacts the quality of life, with a higher prevalence among women and individuals aged between 20 and 50. The syndrome is categorized into four main types based on patients’ symptoms, including IBS with constipation, IBS with diarrhea, mixed-type IBS, and unspecified IBS.

Understanding Irritable Bowel Syndrome: Symptoms, Causes, and Diagnosis

Illustrative image of irritable bowel disease

2. Symptoms of Irritable Bowel Syndrome

2.1. Abdominal Pain

Abdominal pain is a hallmark symptom of IBS, often manifesting in various locations across the abdomen, typically following the course of the large intestine. The pain can be nonspecific, intermittent, and described by patients as cramping, sharp, or dull. Pain tends to intensify after meals or when consuming trigger foods and may diminish after bowel movements, often occurring in the morning.

Irritable Bowel Syndrome Symptoms

Abdominal pain is a hallmark symptom of IBS

2.2. Constipation or Diarrhea

IBS patients may experience irregular bowel habits, with some facing constipation (less than three bowel movements per week) and others experiencing diarrhea (more than three bowel movements per day). These conditions may persist over time and are often accompanied by changes in stool consistency.

2.3. Other Symptoms

In addition to abdominal pain, constipation, and diarrhea, IBS may present with various other symptoms, such as feelings of fullness, abdominal distension,

fatigue, muscle aches, disrupted sleep, a sensation of incomplete bowel evacuation, and frequent urination.

2.4. Red Flag Symptoms

Certain symptoms are considered red flags in IBS and require careful monitoring. These include symptom onset after the age of 50, presence of blood in the stool, unexplained weight loss, palpable abdominal or rectal masses, symptoms occurring at night, anemia, fever, rectal bleeding, or a family history of colorectal cancer or inflammatory bowel disease.

These symptoms may vary between individuals and often appear in irregular patterns. They can also be exacerbated by stress or the consumption of trigger foods for the individual.

3. Causes of Irritable Bowel Syndrome

The precise causes of IBS remain elusive, but several factors are associated with the condition. These factors often work together to induce and exacerbate the symptoms of IBS. Some contributing factors include:

3.1. Stress

Stress is considered a significant factor in triggering IBS symptoms. Situations involving stress, anxiety, and psychological pressure can either stimulate or worsen IBS symptoms. Both the central nervous system and the enteric nervous system play crucial roles in how stress affects the digestive system.

3.2. Hormonal Imbalances

Changes in the endocrine system can affect intestinal function and contribute to IBS symptoms. Events (Thay bằng: Conditions) such as menstrual cycles, hormonal fluctuations, and other endocrine disruptions may exacerbate IBS symptoms.

3.3. Diet

An improper diet or consumption of trigger foods can contribute to the manifestation of IBS symptoms. Many IBS patients report that dietary changes, specific food consumption, or allergenic foods can increase their symptoms.

3.4. Family History

Having a family member with IBS increases the likelihood of developing the condition. However, family history alone does not guarantee IBS, as other factors also influence the risk of the disease.

4. Diagnosing Irritable Bowel Syndrome

The diagnosis of IBS typically begins with a clinical diagnosis based on a patient’s symptoms and medical history. This involves a detailed conversation between the doctor and the patient. Subsequently, tests and examinations may be conducted to rule out other diseases and confirm the diagnosis of IBS.

4.1. Medical History and Symptoms

Doctors gather a thorough medical history and assess the patient’s symptoms, including the frequency and nature of symptoms such as abdominal pain, diarrhea, constipation, changes in bowel habits, and postprandial digestive issues. This medical history helps exclude other diseases with similar symptoms.

4.2. Excluding Other Diseases

Blood tests may be requested to check for signs of inflammation, infection, or other issues. Stool tests can help rule out conditions like inflammatory bowel disease or infectious diarrhea. In cases where alarming symptoms are present, additional tests or examinations may be performed to exclude more severe conditions.

4.3. Gastrointestinal Endoscopy

If necessary, gastrointestinal endoscopy may be performed to assess the condition of the digestive tract. Types of endoscopy include esophagogastroduodenoscopy (EGD) and colonoscopy. If suspicious lesions are observed, a biopsy may be conducted to confirm the diagnosis and exclude other diseases.

Irritable Bowel Syndrome Diagnosis

Gastrointestinal endoscopy in Thu Cuc TCI

4.4. Lactose Non-Absorption Test

For individuals with symptoms resembling IBS after consuming dairy products, a lactose non-absorption test may be conducted to determine if lactose non-absorption contributes to their symptoms.

IBS diagnosis often relies on a process of exclusion, where other diseases are ruled out. Doctors need to integrate clinical information, medical history, and test results to make an accurate diagnosis of Irritable Bowel Syndrome.

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