Irritable Bowel Syndrome
What is it?
Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a medical condition that affects the large intestine. It is a chronic disease but is not fatal.
The exact cause of IBS is not known, however, there are some factors that can affect this condition, as follows,
- Severe infection in the intestine causing bacterial overgrowth
Inflammation in the intestine causes an increase in the immune system, which is associated with pain and diarrhea
- Muscle contractions in the intestine affecting the passage of food. If the contractions are stronger and longer, it causes gas. If the contractions are weak it leads to hard, dry stool.
- Nervous system. When the nerves in the digestive system act abnormally, it can cause more discomfort when the abdomen stretches from gas or stool. Uncoordinated signals between the brain and the intestine result in pain, diarrhea or constipation.
- Microflora comprises of the bacteria present in the intestine, which is useful for the body. Those affected by IBS have a different type of microflora present in the intestine.
Most patients suffering from Irritable Bowel Syndrome do not suffer from severe symptoms. In some people, the symptoms may come and go. A few noted symptoms are as follows,
- Abdominal pain
- Excess gas
- Diarrhea or constipation
- Mucus in the stool
It is necessary to consult a doctor if the following symptoms occur,
- Weight loss
- Rectal bleeding
- Unexplained vomiting
- Iron deficiency anemia
- Diarrhea at night
- Difficulty swallowing
- If the pain is persistent
There are different diagnostic tests that can confirm IBS. Some of these tests include,
- Flexible Sigmoidoscopy: is the procedure where the lower part of the colon is examined using a long, flexible tube with a camera at the end to view detailed images and detect problems.
- Colonoscopy: is performed to view the entire large intestine. In this procedure also, a tube with a camera at the end is inserted through the rectum into the large intestine to view images of the intestine and look for problems.
- X-ray scan and CT scan are also performed to produce images of the abdomen and pelvic region.
- Barium Test: also called lower GI series, is a diagnostic method used to obtain contrast images of the large intestine by injecting white liquid called barium into the large intestine.
- Upper Endoscopy: is the procedure where a long tube is inserted through the mouth into the digestive tract to view and obtain images as well as a biopsy to determine bacterial overgrowth.
The doctor might opt for the following treatment options for IBS as given below:
- Lifestyle changes such as drinking plenty of liquids, eating high fiber food, exercising regularly and getting enough sleep.
- Dietary changes such as reduce high-gas food, gluten and certain carbohydrates such as fructose, lactose etc.
- Medications such as Alosetron relaxes the colon and slow the movement of waste in the lower bowel, Eluxadoline eases diarrhea, Rifaximin is an antibiotic which can decrease bacterial overgrowth, Linaclotide increases fluid secretion in the small intestine and helps to pass the stool even though it sometimes causes diarrhea.