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Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a complex condition that affects your colon or large intestine. It can cause severe pain and can be tricky to diagnose since the symptoms are similar to those of other digestive tract diseases. Our doctors use their wealth of expertise and experience to provide an accurate diagnosis and personalized treatment plan.
Irritable Bowel Syndrome Care at UVM Medical Center
At The UVM Medical Center, we use a team of trusted experts to provide personalized care using the most advanced technology available. Our gastroenterologists have years of experience diagnosing and treating irritable bowel syndrome. The team will assess your condition and risk factors, then use diagnostic procedures to identify the problem.
While you can't prevent IBS, you can take steps to prevent the symptoms from occurring. Following the right diet and using strategies to reduce stress can prevent or alleviate symptoms. Our team will help guide you on what diet & lifestyle changes you can make to help reduce the impact that irritable bowel syndrome has on you.
Risk factors that may increase your chances of developing the disease include:
- Age - IBS symptoms typically appear before 35 years of age
- Gender - Women are more likely to develop IBS than men
- Family history - If you have a first-degree relative with IBS, your risk increases
If you or a loved one experience unexplained symptoms such as diarrhea, rectal bleeding or abdominal pain, make an appointment with your doctor. There are many causes of stomach pain so it is important to receive an expert diagnosis from an experienced gastroenterologist.
Since it is difficult to diagnose IBS, doctors often work by the process of elimination. By ruling out other diseases, we can confirm a diagnosis of IBS. At The University of Vermont Medical Center, we use the following diagnostic procedures:
Researchers have developed a process to help doctors diagnose IBS. You must fit certain criteria and experience certain symptoms before we can diagnose you with IBS. The Rome criteria include:
- Abdominal pain lasting at least 12 weeks. The weeks do not have to be consecutive.
- You must have two or more of the following:
- Change in the frequency or consistency of your stool
- A feeling of straining or urgency, or a feeling that you can't completely empty your bowels
- Mucus in your stool
Your doctor may recommend you undergo further testing to check for infection or to rule out other causes. These tests may include:
- Colonoscopy - a procedure to examine your entire colon. Your doctor may also take tissue samples to examine under a microscope
- Flexible sigmoidoscopy - similar to a colonoscopy, but examines only one section of the colon
- Computed tomography (CT) scan
- Lactose intolerance test - to determine if you are lactose intolerant
- Blood tests - to help rule out celiac disease
Treatments for IBS
There is no cure for IBS since the exact cause has not yet been identified. Treatment for this condition focuses on relieving your symptoms and improving your quality of life. Your specific course of treatment will depend on the severity of your symptoms. Treatment options include lifestyle changes, dietary changes & medication.
Lifestyle & Dietary Changes
For many patients, changing your diet and lifestyle can provide significant relief from IBS. It may take time for you to feel the effects of the changes, but the goal is to provide a long-term solution for your condition.
Steps you can take to manage IBS include:
- Including more fiber in your diet, or a fiber supplement, to control constipation
- Pay attention to "trigger foods," (foods that make your symptoms worse) and avoid them
- Eliminate foods that cause gas
- Eat smaller meals
- Drink plenty of liquids, especially water
- Exercise regularly
- Over-the-counter anti-diarrheal medications
Medications for IBS
Depending on the severity of your IBS and your specific symptoms, we may prescribe different types of medication. Medication options include:
- Anticholinergic medications - This medicine targets a part of the nervous system that is responsible for painful bowel spasms. (This is helpful for diarrhea but can worsen constipation.)
- Antidepressants - Sometimes, depression can be a symptom of IBS. We may recommend an antidepressant, which can also help with pain and constipation.
- Two medications developed specifically for IBS include:
- Alosetron - usually prescribed for severe cases of IBS in women, when symptoms have not responded to other courses of treatment.
- Lubiprostone - may be prescribed for IBS with constipation as it helps the stool pass through your system.
Please note: Some of the doctors and specialists listed below may not treat this specific condition.