York County Medicine Spring 2020 - 12

YO R K C O M E D S O C . O R G

FEATURE:

Understanding Irritable
Bowel Syndrome
By: Ali Abbas, MD, UPMC Specialty Care Gastroenterology

E

at least three days each month for at least
three months, and at least two of the
following are true:

veryone experiences stomach pain
at some point in their lifetime, but
if it happens regularly, you may
suffer from irritable bowel syndrome
(IBS).

* The pain is relieved by having a bowel
movement.

Irritable bowel syndrome is a disorder
of the intestines, which can cause belly
pain, cramping or bloating, and diarrhea,
or constipation. IBS is a common
problem and affects between 25 and 45
million people in the United States. IBS is
a long-term problem, but there are things
you can do to reduce your symptoms.

* The pain is linked to a change in how
often you have a bowel movement.
* The pain is linked to a change in the
appearance or consistency of your stool.
Bowel Movement Patterns
When you have IBS, your pattern of
bowel movements may be different over
time. Two or more of the following may
happen:

What Causes Irritable Bowel
Syndrome?
It isn't clear what causes irritable
bowel syndrome. The cause may be different for different people.
People with IBS may have unusually sensitive intestines or
problems with the way the muscles of the intestines move.

* Bowel movements may occur either
more often (diarrhea) or less often (constipation) than
usual. For example, you may have more than three bowel
movements a day or less than three a week.

For some people with IBS, certain foods, stress, hormonal
changes, and some antibiotics may trigger pain and other
symptoms.

* Bowel movements may differ in size or consistency. They
may be hard and small, pencil-thin, or loose and watery.

Four Symptoms of Irritable Bowel Syndrome You Should
Know
Irritable bowel syndrome has a number of different
symptoms. Some are related to your stomach or digestive track
and others are unrelated to your digestive system all together.
Symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome include:
1. Changes in bowel movement patterns. Many people with
IBS go back and forth between having constipation and
having diarrhea. For most people, one of these happens more
often than the other.
2. Pain in the lower belly.
3. Bloating and excess gas.
4. Mucus in stools.
IBS is quite common, but most people's symptoms are so
mild that they never see a doctor for treatment. But others
may have troublesome symptoms, especially stomach cramps,
bloating, and diarrhea.
You are more likely to have IBS if you have these symptoms
and they have lasted at least 6 months, you have had belly pain
12

York County Medicine | SPRING 2020

* The way stools pass changes. You may strain, feel an urgent
need to have a bowel movement, or feel that you haven't
completely passed a stool.
* You may have bloating or a feeling of gas in the intestines.
Other Symptoms of IBS
You may sometimes have other symptoms that don't affect
the digestive tract, such as:
* Anxiety or depression.
* Fatigue.
* Headache.
* An unpleasant taste in the mouth.
* Backache.
* Sleep problems (insomnia) not caused by symptoms of IBS.
* Sexual problems, such as pain during sex or reduced sexual
desire.
* Heart palpitations. (You may feel like your heart skips a beat
or is fluttering.)
* Urinary symptoms. (You may have a frequent or urgent


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York County Medicine Spring 2020

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