Symptoms of IBS
IBS symptoms can vary widely from patient to patient. They can come and go and may seem contradictory (like constipation alternating with diarrhea). They can also resemble those of many other colorectal conditions. In general, IBS symptoms include:
- Cramping or pain in the abdomen
- Bloating and gas
- Constipation or diarrhea
- Mucus in the stool
In IBS sufferers, abdominal pain or discomfort is related to movement of the bowels. For example, pain may decrease after a bowel movement or it may begin when stools become harder or softer. In women, symptoms appear to be influenced by hormone changes and can grow worse at certain times of the menstrual cycle. Writing down your symptoms daily can help you and your physician gain a clearer understanding of your needs and treatment options.
Risk Factors and Causes
IBS tends to affect men and women younger than 45 years old. It is about twice as common in women than in men. Family history seems to be a risk factor, and it may be related to shared genes, a shared family environment, or both. The exact cause of IBS is unknown. IBS can involve contractions of the intestine walls that are stronger and last longer than normal, resulting in gas, bloating, and diarrhea. In other patients, the contractions are weaker than normal, resulting in delayed passage of stools that are hard and dry. It is thought to involve a disturbance between the way that the brain, gut, and nervous system interact, which causes the abnormal bowel movement and symptoms. It is important to note that stress does not cause IBS. However, stress can trigger or exacerbate symptoms.