Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is incredibly common with numbers suggesting it is present in 10-20% of the population. Symptoms tend to present when people are in their twenties or thirties, and it is usually possible to make a diagnosis with your doctor based on symptoms rather than endless tests and investigations.
IBS can constantly rumble on with mild symptoms or flare up and cause fairly debilitating symptoms. Fortunately, IBS does not cause any serious health implications, but it can have an impact on peoples day to day lives. The predominant symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome vary from person to person. Some struggle with constipation, others with diarrhoea, and for some pain and bloating with others varying between episodes of a combination of these. If the main or most common symptom you suffer from is diarrhoea then this is known as diarrhoea predominant IBS where people suffer from episodes of loose stools and along with that urgency or increased frequency of passing stools can also occur. Around one-third of people with IBS suffer from diarrhoea predominant IBS.
There are ways to help improve the symptoms of diarrhoea predominant IBS. These include trying to avoid the additive sorbitol in your diet and also medication that helps prevent diarrhoea such as loperamide (which people usually know by it’s brand name immodium). Immodium, along with other anti-diarrhoea medication can be brought over the counter and your local pharmacist can give you advice on what is best for you. You should speak to your doctor if you are needing to take it for more than 2 days and you have not already discussed it with them or speak to your doctor prior to taking if you do not have a confirmed diagnosis of IBS.
You should book a routine doctor’s appointment if you are experiencing symptoms of IBS. This is so that the doctor can help rule out any other causes of your symptoms and confirm IBS as the likely cause. There is no specific test for IBS and so it is what is called a diagnosis of exclusion, where other conditions are ruled out so that IBS can then be confirmed as the diagnosis. If you have unexplained weight loss, a fever, feeling generally unwell, or any blood in your stools you should book an urgent visit with your doctor.
The doctor will ask you about your symptoms, your medical history, any relevant family medical history, and what medications you are currently taking. They will likely have a feel of your abdomen, check your temperature, and potentially do other tests such as a blood test or a stool sample.
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