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Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) health centre

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Types of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)

Irritable bowel syndrome symptoms include stomach cramps, bloating, diarrhoea and constipation.

There are three main types of IBS, described by their main symptoms: diarrhoea, constipation or a mixture of the two:

  • IBS with constipation. This comes with stomach pain and discomfort, bloating, abnormally delayed or infrequent bowel movement, or lumpy/hard stool.
  • IBS with diarrhoea. This comes with stomach pain and discomfort, an urgent need to move your bowels, abnormally frequent bowel movements, or loose/watery stool.
  • IBS with alternating constipation and diarrhoea.

There are about an equal number of people in each category. There is also evidence that most people with IBS will alternate between types over time.

This makes it difficult for researchers to find a single drug treatment that will relieve all the symptoms of IBS.

Identifying the type of IBS is important for doctors to decide on a treatment.

Different medications work for IBS with constipation and for IBS with diarrhoea. Doctors will usually tailor treatment for people who have IBS with alternating symptoms.

The Core charity says the type of IBS that appears to follow gastroenteritis often leads to persistent diarrhoea.

A person's bowel movements with IBS may change over time needing an adjustment in treatment.

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WebMD Medical Reference

Medically Reviewed by Dr Rob Hicks on August 04, 2016

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