Papafragkakis
Charilaos Papafragkakis, MD
Gastroenterologist - Hepatologist

Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)

IBS is a functional disorder of the digestive system which manifests with recurrent abdominal pain associated with defecation or a change in bowel habits. It may be associated with diarrhea, constipation or both. In the past it used to be a diagnosis of exclusion. Symptom onset should be at least 6 months before the diagnosis and symptoms should be present during the last 3 months before the diagnosis.

How common is IBS?

The prevalence of IBS is about 11% worldwide based on a meta-analysis of 80 studies involving more than 260,000 subjects. The incidence of IBS is estimated to be 1.35% to 1.5. The prevalence is higher in women and young people.

How to diagnose IBS?

There is no single test to diagnose IBS, so it requires thorough evaluation from the doctor. Many other conditions have symptoms that can mimic IBS, such as inflammatory bowel disease, celiac disease, lactose and fructose intolerance, and microscopic colitis. The mechanism of the pathophysiology of IBS is not completely understood, but has to do with abnormally increased pain perception, motility of the gut and disturbances in the brain-gut axis.

What are the risk factors for IBS?

Factors that increase the risk of developing IBS include genetic, environmental, and psychosocial factors. Factors that trigger the onset or exacerbation of IBS symptoms include a prior gastroenteritis, food intolerances, chronic stress, diverticulitis, and surgery.

Is there any treatment?

It is important to know that IBS is a benign condition. It is managed conservatively, mainly with diet, life style modifications and particular medications depending on the type of IBS and the patient response. The more we understand its pathophysiology the more treatment options will be available for this common disease.

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