Warrington and Halton Hospitals

WHH support national IBS Month

Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) is the name given to a condition that causes a combination of abdominal symptoms related to either an alteration of gut function or increased sensitivity of the gut.

Clinicians often try and categorise patients with several combinations of symptoms into different subgroups or describe the most predominant problem that affects a particular patient. Patients can be classified as those who have predominant pain, diarrhoea or constipation or those with alternating symptoms.

IBS is one of the most common problems encountered in the general population. Despite most patients not seeking medical advice for symptoms, it is one of the commonest reasons for patients to be seen by general practitioners. Worldwide it is estimated that between 1 in 10 and nearly in 1 in 4 people have this condition but very few seek medical advice. It is more common in women than men. Two in three IBS sufferers are female and one in three are male.

There are several other chronic and serious conditions that can mimic IBS type symptoms. In people older than 50, these symptoms could point to more serious conditions such as bowel or other abdominal cancers. Some younger people may have to be investigated for cancer if they belong to a high risk group. In younger people common conditions that need to be excluded are coeliac disease, Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) such as Ulcerative Colitis or Crohn's disease. However these conditions may also affect older people. Other conditions to be considered include Lactose intolerance, Small bowel bacterial overgrowth or pancreatic insufficiency.


Common symptoms of IBS can include:


  • Stomach pain and cramping, which may be relieved by having a bowel movement
  • A change to your bowel habits such as diarrhoea, constipation or sometimes both
  • Bloating or swelling of your stomach
  • Excessive wind
  • Occasionally experiencing an urgent need to go to the toilet
  • A feeling that you have not fully emptied your bowels after going to the toilet
  • Passing mucus from your bottom


Uncommon symptoms of IBS can include:

  • Unexplained weight loss

  • Sudden onset of severe symptoms

  • Night time symptoms

  • Bleeding from the gut

  • Family history of abdominal conditions such as Colitis or Crohn's or Coeliac

    In these situations further tests are recommended in all age groups.


    Current treatments for IBS include a combination of diet, medication depending on predominant symptoms and psychological support. A variety of symptoms can be associated with IBS and can affect other areas. Fatigue, tiredness, generalised aches, bladder symptoms are all associated with IBS.


    Symptoms are usually variable with periods of worsening and improvement which are helped with different ways of treatment. This is considered a chronic condition and therefore patients usually need support and help throughout their illness. Stress does not cause symptoms but could aggravate both the abdominal and associated symptoms.


    Recent surveys have shown that most patients rate these as their most important expectations:


  • Being listened to

  • Comprehensive assessment of their symptoms

  • Provide additional information about their condition

  • Answer questions appropriately

  • Provide information about medication and newer studies about IBS.


Dr Ramakrishnan, Consultant Gastroenterologist at Warrington Hospital said “As IBS is so common than other serious or long term conditions; there has been a lot of research to see if there are tests that can reliably differentiate between the two. There are tests that we could perform in a stool sample that can in many situations reliably separate the two. Your specialist will be able to talk to you more about these tests. Further evaluation with blood tests, breath tests, scans (CT or MRI) and telescope examinations (Gastroscopy, Colonoscopy) may be needed to rule out other conditions”.


You can find out more about IBS via the websites below:


Link to NHS choices website


Link to aboutibs.org website


Link to Monash university - http://www.med.monash.edu.au/news/2014/ibs-research-breakthrough.html

Published: 04/04/2017


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