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September 17, 2019

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Weekend doctor: Irritable Bowel Syndrome

By Jay Alammar, MD
Surgical Associates of Northwest Ohio
Did you know that 10 to 15 percent of Americans suffer from irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)? Many more also meet the criteria of the diagnosis but have not been formally diagnosed.

 IBS is a chronic condition characterized by abdominal pain/discomfort and altered bowel habits, mainly diarrhea, constipation or alternating episodes of both. Other symptoms may include bloating, feelings of fullness, urgency to use the restroom, and feelings of incomplete evacuation of stool. The symptoms are often relieved by having a bowel movement and made worse by eating.

 Although often trivialized, IBS is a burdensome ailment. It makes bowel habits unpredictable and turns the patient’s life into a continuous struggle. It affects the patient’s activities, productivity and ability to thrive. Having little knowledge about IBS can impact the lives of many people. Please do not suffer or let anyone around you agonize in silence! Discussing the symptoms with your primary care provider will undoubtedly guide you to the treatment you need.

 IBS must be diagnosed by a physician. When patients “diagnose” themselves, it may delay the official diagnosis or treatment of a more serious condition. Certain alarming aspects such as the onset of symptoms after the age of 50, rectal bleeding, black stool, nighttime diarrhea, progressive increase in abdominal pain, weight loss, anemia, family history of colon cancer, or family history inflammatory bowel disease (Crohn's or ulcerative colitis) all warrant additional testing to exclude other disease entities with similar symptoms before making the IBS diagnosis. Additional diagnostic evaluations commonly obtained are colonoscopy, upper endoscopy or CT scan.

 Currently, there is not a cure for IBS. Most available treatments revolve around controlling symptoms or targeting the underlying cause. Your physician can help you find the best treatment option for your symptoms.

 IBS is the most common diagnosis made in gastroenterology practices. Living with the disease is a daunting task. There is no need to suffer in silence. Stop missing out on activities and reduce or eliminate the feelings of frustration, exhaustion, and embarrassment by speaking to your physician. Seek help soon and take control of your life again!

 Let's work together to raise awareness for IBS and positively impact the lives of affected people.