An overview of IBS symptoms and treatment

Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is commonly seen in general practice, yet its cause is not well understood. Visceral hypersensitivity, altered gut motility and psychosocial factors all contribute. Therapeutic Guidelines: Gastrointestinal says that patients may have additional problems such as anxiety, depression, dyspepsia, dysmenorrhoea, dyspareunia and headaches.

The pain of IBS is associated with a change in bowel frequency. Although many patients have diarrhoea, the syndrome is also associated with constipation. Defecation usually relieves the pain.

Some symptoms warrant further investigation, particularly if the patient is older than 50 years of age or has a family history of bowel disease. Steatorrhoea, rectal bleeding and weight loss should be investigated.

Assessing the patient and explaining the problem is part of the management. A good relationship with the patient helps them get the most benefit from treatment.

Only a minority of