Irritable bowel syndrome, or IBS, can be a painful affliction that can greatly disrupt the life of anyone who has it. However, IBS shares symptoms with many other ailments and illnesses that can affect the gastrointestinal system, and it is very important to make sure of what the ailment actually is before treatment of IBS begins.
IBS has the some of the same symptoms as many other health problems, some of which can be very serious. Each illness will have a treatment plan specifically for it, so it is very important to make sure a diagnosis of IBS is correct. However, since there is no one test that can single out IBS, other conditions and afflictions must be considered and ruled out to make sure a patient is treated for the right illness.
What to Look For
Many symptoms of IBS worsen after meals. Some of these symptoms include a change in the patient’s bathroom habits, a change in stool consistency (watery, hard stool or stool containing a lot of mucus), stomach bloating and pain, lower back aches and pains, a feeling that a bowel movement is not completed and others.
Since IBS doesn’t actually damage the intestines it does not increase the risk of cancer in those afflicted. While the above symptoms could indicate IBS, there are some symptoms that are not associated with the condition, such as excessive weight loss, fever, colon inflammation, an increase in urination, or evidence of intestinal bleeding, such as blood in the stool.
IBS doesn’t show any of these symptoms, so it is best for anyone who thinks they have IBS but has these symptoms to seek the expert opinion of a doctor. Self-diagnosis is not recommended, as these could be signs of a serious problem that may need immediate treatment.
Conditions Often Confused with IBS
Because of the wide array of symptoms, IBS can often be confused with other conditions and diseases. For example, IBS is confused with IBD, or inflammatory bowel disease quite often, though these conditions are very different, with each requiring different treatments and management for dealing with them effectively. IBD is a chronic, or recurring disease of the gastrointestinal tract which causes the immune system to malfunction and attack the intestines.
The most common forms of IBD are ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease, and though they have similar symptoms as IBS, people with Crohn’s or ulcerative colitis have an increased risk of colorectal cancer. Cancer can, in fact, also have many of the same symptoms as IBS, which is why getting diagnostic testing to rule it out is very important.
However, IBS does not cause weight loss, bloody stool or rectal bleeding. Women may also have appetite loss, abdominal swelling and a noticeable lack of energy. Celiac disease is another affliction that can be confused for IBS, Celiac disease is intolerance to gluten, a protein found in wheat, barley, and other grains.
In addition to symptoms similar to those of IBS, sufferers of celiac disease also have weight loss, vomiting and strong of foul smelling stool, not to mention seizures, rashes and joint pains.
Seek a Medical Opinion
While many symptoms of IBS can be relieved and managed somewhat effectively at home, patients who think they may be suffering from irritable bowel syndrome are strongly urged to seek a proper medical diagnosis in order to be sure and to start prompt and proper treatment. Without a proper diagnosis by a doctor, a serious or life threatening illness may go without notice until treatment options become severely limited, or in some cases, exhausted completely.