Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is incredibly common with numbers suggesting it is present in 10-20% of the population. Symptoms tend to present when people are in their twenties or thirties, and it is usually possible to make a diagnosis with your doctor based on symptoms rather than endless tests and investigations.
IBS can constantly rumble on with mild symptoms or flare up and cause fairly debilitating symptoms. Fortunately, IBS does not cause any serious health implications, but it can have an impact on peoples day to day lives. The predominant symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome vary from person to person. Some struggle with constipation, others with diarrhoea, and for some pain and bloating with others varying between episodes of a combination of these. If the main or most common symptom you suffer from is abdominal pain then this is known as abdominal pain predominant IBS where people suffer from pain that tends to come and go, which some people describe as spasmodic. It can occur anywhere in the stomach area and can often improve after passing stool or wind. The severity of the pain varies between people and also between episodes of pain. Around one-third of people with IBS suffer from abdominal pain predominant IBS.
You should book a routine doctor’s appointment if you are experiencing symptoms of IBS. This is so that the doctor can help rule out any other causes of your symptoms and confirm IBS as the likely cause. There is no specific test for IBS and so it is what is called a diagnosis of exclusion, where other conditions are ruled out so that IBS can then be confirmed as the diagnosis. If you have severe pain that isn’t settling, unexplained weight loss, a fever, feeling generally unwell or any blood in your stools you should book an urgent visit with your doctor or call NHS 111.
The doctor will ask you about your symptoms, your medical history, any relevant family medical history, and what medications you are currently taking. They will have a feel of your abdomen, check your temperature, and potentially do other tests such as a blood test or a stool sample.