There are generally 4 types of IBS, each one has slightly different symptoms than the other. The 4 types of IBS are:

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

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

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

•    IBS unspecified (IBS-U): Symptoms follow and irregular pattern

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

The thing to keep in mind is that IBS is a syndrome rather than a disease.  This means that there is no known cause; it’s diagnosed based on a cluster of symptoms.   It’s important that you are professionally diagnosed as there are a number of disorders which appear in a similar manner to IBS.  Common disorders associated with irritable bowel syndrome include:
•    Heartburn
•    Lactose or Fructose intolerance
•    Fibromyalgia
•    Chronic fatigue syndrome (also known as myalgic encephalomyelitis or ME)
•    Other conditions that may share similar symptoms in the early stages include inflammatory bowel disorders (the most common of which are Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis), some cancers (for example colon cancer) and coeliac disease.  
Check in with your doctor if you notice any of these symptoms as they are not associated with IBS:
•    Unexplained weight loss
•    Fever of unknown origin; especially if prolonged or recurring or occurring as night sweats
•    Blood or mucus in your stool or on the toilet paper
•    Persistent or severe vomiting
•    Unexplained changes in bowel habit
•    Unexplained ulcers

Irritable Bowel Syndrome was once a diagnosis of exclusion, meaning the diagnosis was made once the patient had completed tests for gut disorders with very similar presentations.  Research is now suggesting that doctors can make a diagnosis based on taking a thorough case history, ruling out risk factors where indicated (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 defines IBS as:
Recurrent abdominal pain or discomfort at least 3 days/month in the last 3months 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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