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Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) health centre

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Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) symptoms

We all have stomach aches and trouble going to the toilet once in a while, but for people with IBS, the chronic pain and discomfort can be disabling.

Along with abdominal cramping and discomfort, IBS symptoms include:

  • Bloating
  • Wind
  • Constipation, the stool comes out either lumpy or hard
  • Diarrhoea, the stool comes out loose or watery
  • Alternating bouts of constipation and/or diarrhoea
  • Bowel movements that feel uncontrollably urgent, difficult to pass, or incomplete
  • Clear or white mucus with the stool.

To determine whether your digestive problems are due to IBS, a doctor will check whether there is:

  • Abdominal pain or bloating that clears up when you pass a stool
  • Abdominal pain or bloating linked to bouts of diarrhoea or constipation
  • Stools being passed more frequently than normal

The standard diagnostic guideline for IBS, calls for the symptoms to be present for at least six months. It's difficult for people to remember the exact number of weeks they had symptoms in the preceding year. During the time before diagnosis is confirmed, seek medical advice whenever you have recurrent symptoms. Doctors can determine whether your symptoms are IBS or signs of another problem. IBS is often confused with other illnesses, so doctors will need to ask questions, and may perform tests to exclude other conditions that have symptoms similar to IBS.

Blood in the stool, a high temperature, weight loss, and continuing pain are NOT symptoms of IBS. If you have these symptoms, seek medical advice right away.

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WebMD Medical Reference

Medically Reviewed by Dr Rob Hicks on May 23, 2014

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