Return To Main Article
|Choosing a Doctor
As only about 30 percent of those with irritable bowel syndrome are receiving medical care, many people are suffering unnecessarily. If you suspect you have symptoms of IBS it is worth seeing a physician, ideally before you urgently need one. Many hospitals and medical societies can make recommendations if you do not already have a family doctor. Your doctor should be able to provide a diagnosis and suggest suitable IBS treatment options. If you are not given a treatment plan, or are not satisfied with the advice, ask your doctor to recommend a gastroenterologist. A gastroenterologist is a doctor who specializes in the digestive system. But like all specialists they prefer, even require that you come to them via a primary care physician.
How Is IBS Diagnosed?
As there is no specific test for IBS, doctors need to make an initial assessment based on a physical examination, the nature of the symptoms experienced plus a medical history. The more accurate a picture of symptoms you can give your physician the quicker and more accurate the diagnosis. For this reason it is highly recommended to keep a detailed IBS food diary for 2 to 4 weeks before your appointment. As IBS symptoms are very similar to many other conditions, the doctor will consider all options before making a diagnosis. Other conditions he may consider include:
A routine physical exam for IBS will involve:
1.The doctor feeling the abdomen for bloating and sensitivity.
To determine if your symptoms meet the criteria for diagnosing IBS, your doctor may ask about:
Any recent stressful events in your life, such as moving house, divorce or problems at work. Stress appears to be a huge trigger for IBS, so if your symptoms occur more frequently when stressed, this is an indication of IBS. Read about stress and IBS.
Changes in bowel movements: How often do you pass a stool, has this frequency changed, do you regularly experience constipation or diarrhea or pass mucus?
As symptoms of IBS can vary from person to person, doctors often disagree on diagnosis. While some sufferers have daily attacks, others may experience nothing for days, weeks or even months. This naturally raises the question: when is it IBS and when it is simply an occasional bowel complaint which should be put down to, for example, stress or a virus? In response, experts from around the world have met several times in Rome to debate and agree set criteria for diagnosing IBS, among other conditions. The most important requirement for diagnosis of IBS is the presence of abdominal pain. It should also be accompanied by at least two of the following 3 symptoms: (1) Relief occurs with a bowel movement (2) Change in frequency of bowel movement and/or (3) Change in appearance of stool. This cluster of symptoms should occur for at least 12 weeks within a period of a year (not necessarily concurrently).
As IBS does not cause any structural 'damage' to the body, if your physical exam is normal but you are experiencing IBS symptoms, then a diagnosis of IBS may be given. However, if the physician suspects another cause, they may order other tests. Blood tests can rule out infections, inflammation, celiac disease and anemia. A fecal occult blood test (derived from a stool sample) can check for white blood cells in the stool (a sign of inflammation in the intestines which indicates irritable bowel disease, a different condition). It can also test for parasites. Usually no other tests are required. However, if symptoms occur which are not typical of IBS (such as fever, unexplained weight loss, rectal bleeding, diarrhea with blood, and pain that keeps the patient awake at night) then additional tests and procedures will probably be required.
Sometimes a sigmoidoscopy, colonoscopy or a barium enema is performed to exclude other diseases.
|Related Articles on Diagnosing IBS
For more related to Irritable Bowel Syndrome, see the following:
Back to Homepage: Womens Health Advice
WOMENS HEALTH ADVICE: ABOUT IRRITABLE BOWEL SYNDROME