Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a medical condition affecting the bowel.  Although not fully understood, it is described as a functional disorder rather than as a disease.  This means that there is a problem with how the bowel works and it is thought to be because it is over-sensitive and reacts too strongly to a normal stimulus.  This can lead to great discomfort for the sufferer.  IBS is much more common in women than in men.


The word syndrome means a collection of symptoms.  In irritable bowel syndrome these include: cramping, abdominal pain that often reduces when the bowels open or wind is passed; a change in the normal bowel habit, such as diarrhoea or constipation; feeling bloated; feeling like you have not fully finished after opening your bowels; and passing mucus, which is often a green-yellow slime.  IBS is not a dangerous condition but there are other medical conditions that can cause similar symptoms.  The GP will exclude other causes of these symptoms through asking questions, examination and possibly ordering some tests such as blood tests or looking in the bowel with a camera, known as a colonoscopy.  Once other more worrying conditions have been excluded a diagnosis of irritable bowel syndrome may be given.


Although irritable bowel syndrome is not yet completely understood, there are still a number of different types of treatment.  These include diet advice, pain relief medications, laxatives, medication to prevent spasm in the bowel, and relaxation techniques.


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