FAQ About Irritable Bowel Syndrome

FAQ About Irritable Bowel Syndrome


Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is the reason for more than five per cent of visits to doctors and up to 50 per cent of referrals to gastroenterologists. Here, Dr John Kellow, Associate Professor of Medicine at the University of Sydney and Gastroenterologist at Royal North Shore Hospital, Sydney, sheds some light on this common, yet little understood condition, while debunking the long-held suspicion that IBS is "all in the head."

FEMAIL: What is irritable bowel syndrome?

J.K.:
Irritable bowel syndrome is a genuine disorder of the gastrointestinal tract, where the nerves and muscles of the bowel become oversensitive, causing stomach pain or discomfort, bloating and irregularity. The symptoms are often chronic, range from mild, to moderate and severe, and can have a significant impact upon sufferers' quality of life.

FEMAIL: How many Australians does IBS affect?

J.K.:
The condition affects one in seven adult Australians.

FEMAIL: Who is most at risk of developing IBS and why?

J.K.:
IBS affects people of all ages and from all walks of life. However it is more common in women and more common between the ages of 20 to 40. Women are twice as likely as men to suffer from IBS. This may be because they have a more sensitive bowel than men.

FEMAIL: What is the likely cause of IBS?

J.K.:
We don't know the cause of IBS. However, we do know that the bowel is more sensitive in people with IBS. This may be due to a number of environmental factors such as a previous bowel infection, stress, or some chemical imbalance within the bowel. The symptoms may also be triggered by eating and hormonal changes.

FEMAIL: What are the symptoms of IBS?

J.K.:
The main symptoms of IBS are abdominal pain or discomfort, bloating and irregular bowel movements, such as constipation, diarrhoea, or a combination of both.

FEMAIL: How can IBS impact the lives of people with the condition?

J.K.:
For some patients, IBS can be a real problem. When in its severe form, IBS is a debilitating condition and the second cause of workplace absenteeism behind the common cold. Its impact on quality of life can be equal to other chronic disorders, such as asthma or migraine. It can affect sufferers' daily lives, from their work, right through to their social life. However people with IBS often suffer in silence because of their reluctance to discuss their bowel habits and pain.

FEMAIL: How do you test for IBS?

J.K.:
There is no test for IBS. We usually make the diagnosis based on a combination of typical symptoms and we often rule out other disorders, which can cause similar symptoms.

People seeking further information about how to better manage and treat their condition can visit the Irritable Bowel Information and Support Association (IBIS) of Australia at www.ibsrelief.com.au>

*** Read up on a new breakthrough treatment for irritable bowel syndrome.***


MORE