What is Irritable Bowel Syndrome?

Irritable bowel syndrome

Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is also known as spastic colon. It is a digestive system disorder that presents as abdominal pain, bloating, cramps, excess mucus in stools, diarrhoea, and constipation. It occurs mainly in the daytime and not during sleep, although in some patients the need to defecate may awaken them early in the morning.

Irritable Bowel Syndrome - the intestinal tract

Irritable bowel syndrome usually manifests before the age of thirty and may affect up to one-quarter of the population in industrialized countries. The exact cause, or causes, of irritable bowel syndrome are unknown, but stress, depression, hypersensitivity to certain hormones, and pressure from gas, diet, and medications may contribute to the onset.

IBS does not usually lead to serious disease such as inflammatory bowel disease or malignancy (although there might be an association between IBS and the development of diverticulosis).

Who Is Affected by Irritable Bowel Syndrome?

IBS is a disease predominantly of women (3:1 to men), and the average age of onset is 20-40.

What Are the Symptoms of IBS?

It is characterized by variable changes in peristalsis (the frequency and strength of muscular contractions in the intestines that transport digested food and, ultimately, faeces through the gastrointestinal tract). These changes, and the sufferer’s sensitivity to them, result in the classic symptoms of pain, diarrhoea, constipation, or a combination of all three. In most patients, irritable bowel syndrome shows a tendency toward diarrhoea, constipation, or an alternation between the two.