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    Irritable Bowel Syndrome

    Overview
    Symptoms
    Causes
    Treatment
    Where To Seek Treatment

     

    Singapore General Hospital
    Contributed by Singapore General Hospital

    Overview

    Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) is a very common condition. Approximately one in five people are affected. The pain of IBS is caused by the intestines going into a spasm or cramp that can be quite severe. IBS causes great anxiety though it is not a serious condition, in that it is not fatal and usually does not worsen over time.

    Symptoms

    • Abdominal cramp: usually in the lower part of the tummy or down the left hand side. The pain can be sharp, gripping or stabbing. It usually eases after passing wind or bowel movement.
    • Irregular bowel habit : Patients can suffer from constipation to diarrhoea. There is increased stool frequency and consistency tends to be loose. Sufferers have feeling of incomplete emptying after bowel movements. Stool tends to be loose but is never increased in bulk and water. Therefore affected people do not become dehydrated ( unlike the diarrhoea in gastroenteritis ).
    • Urgency: A feeling of urgently needing to open the bowels.
    • Motions: varies from small and hard pelletty to loose stool.
    • Abdominal bloating : Tummy feels swollen making clothes feel tight.
    • Excessive wind

    Less common symptoms are:

    • Generally tired or tiring easily.
    • Backache
    • Headache with sweating, flushing and fainting
    • Nausea or vomiting for no apparent reason
    • Feeling agitated or having pain when going to the toilet

    * Be aware that BLOOD in the motion is not a symptom of IBS and you should see your doctor as soon as possible if this happens.

    Causes

    There is no known cause of IBS. A lack of fibre (roughage) in the diet, stress and irregular eating times can all make things worse.

    Treatment

    Two main areas where positive action can make a difference to IBS are your lifestyle and diet.

    • Ensure that you have sufficient leisure time and regular exercise
    • Eat a healthy and well balanced diet. Make sure you drink enough fluid and fibre or roughage in your diet. Good sources of fibre are wholemeal bread and cereals, potatoes, wholegrain pasta and brown rice and all types of fruit and vegetables. If your symptoms include constipation, eating plenty of fibre and drinking plenty of fluids may be particularly helpful. IBS is not due to food allergy so there is no need to avoid certain foods.

    Drugs: if these simple measures do not help your symptoms, your doctor may prescribe you anti spasmodic agents. These drugs help to control your symptoms ( pain and bloating) by relaxing the bowel spasm.

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