There are 4 types of IBS, each one has slightly varied symptoms than the other, these are:

•    IBS with constipation (IBS-C): Constipation being the most frequent symptom

•    IBS with diarrhoea (IBS-D): Diarrhoea being the most frequent symptom

•    IBS mixed (IBS-M): Both constipation and diarrhoea are experienced interchangeably

•    IBS unspecified (IBS-U): Symptoms are irregular

The prime symptom of IBS (no matter which type you may have), is abdominal pain that is generally relieved after passing a stool.  Other symptoms include: bloating, wind (up or down), constipation, diarrhoea (or a mixture of both), tiredness, headache, and nausea.

IBS is a syndrome rather than a disease; this means that there is no known cause for IBS and it is diagnosed based on a cluster of symptoms.   It’s important that you are professionally diagnosed as there are several other disorders which have similar symptoms to IBS.  These disorders with similar symptoms to Irritable Bowel Syndrome include:
•    Heartburn
•    Lactose or Fructose intolerance
•    Fibromyalgia
•    Chronic fatigue syndrome (also referred to as, myalgic encephalomyelitis or ME)
•    Inflammatory bowel disorders (most common are Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis), some cancers (for example colon cancer) and coeliac disease.  
Call your doctor if you notice any of the following symptoms as they are not associated with Irritable Bowel Syndrome:
•    Changes in bowel habit that cannot be explained
•    Persistent or severe vomiting
•    Weight loss that cannot be explained
•    Fever of unknown origin; especially if prolonged, recurring or occurring as night sweats
•    Blood or mucus in your stool or on the toilet paper
•    Unexplained ulcers
Irritable Bowel Syndrome was once diagnosed after the patient had completed tests for gut disorders with very similar presentations.  However, research is now suggesting that doctors can make a diagnosis for IBS based on taking a thorough case history, ruling out risk factors, (for example if there is a family history of coeliac disease or colon cancer) and using the Rome III criteria.

The Rome III Diagnostic Criteria for IBS:
Definition: Recurrent abdominal pain or discomfort at least 3 days/month in the last 3 months associated with two or more of the following:
 (1) Improvement with defecation
 (2) Onset is associated with a change in frequency of stool
 (3) Onset associated with a change in form (appearance) of stool.  

These symptoms have occurred for the last 3 months with symptom onset at least 6 months prior to diagnosis.

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