Irritable Bowel Syndrome

Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a common gut disorder which can cause troublesome symptoms which become chronic. Symptoms can vary greatly between patients but generally they include bloating, altered bowel habit with constipation or diarrhoea in varying degrees and abdominal cramping. Up to 50% of patients presenting to surgical and medical gastroenterology clinics have IBS. In the UK a third of the population have occasional IBS symptoms and some 10% have severe enough symptoms to cause them to seek medical help. IBS commonly starts between 15 and 40 years of age although it can affect any age group.

The Institute manages all patients labelled as having IBS in line with British Society of Gastroenterology guidelines and in close conjunction with medical gastroenterology colleagues. However, the diagnosis of IBS is only reached after careful history and examination of the patient and once alarm features such as rectal bleeding, weight loss, diarrhoea, recent use of antibiotics, age of onset more than 50 years, a positive family history of bowel (colorectal) cancer and a short history of symptoms have all been evaluated.

Treatment involves dietary and lifestyle modification with occasional help from psychologists and psychotherapists for those patients whose symptoms are generated by stress, anxiety or depression. Antispasmodic and antidiarrhoeal drugs are frequently employed to help patients gain control of their symptoms.