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Irritable Bowel Syndrome

WHAT IS IRRITABLE BOWEL SYNDROME?

Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a common disorder that affects 10 to 20% of people in the UK.   It should not be confused with diseases like ulcerative colitis or Crohn's colitis these are called inflammatory bowel disease.

IBS is a syndrome, this means that it is a pattern of symptoms such as pain, bloating and erratic bowel movements that tend to occur together. Although symptoms can be debilitating it is important to stress that it is not life-threatening.

WHAT ARE THE SYMPTOMS OF IBS?

People with IBS may experience constipation, diarrhoea, or a combination of both at different times. IBS also produces severe colicky abdominal pain, urgency or a gassy, bloated distension of the abdomen. Rectal bleeding is never a symptom of IBS.

WHAT CAUSES IBS?

The underlying cause of this disorder is an abnormality in the way internal muscles of the bowel work. These muscles usually work automatically to move food products along the intestine to the rectum and out of the anus. The muscles contract in a disorderly way either too forcefully or too weakly, too slowly or too rapidly, at different times.  This accounts for the variety of symptoms that a patient can experience.

HOW IS IBS TREATED?

Simply understanding that IBS is not a serious or life-threatening condition may relieve anxiety and stress, which often contributes to the problem.

Anti-spasmodic medications that act directly on the intestinal muscles to help prevent spasm in the bowel which causes the colicky pain may benefit some patients.   Some people obtain greater relief from one medication than another and it therefore advised to try each one to see which one offers the most benefit.  Constipation or loose stools can be managed by the use of appropriate medications for these bowel states.

ARE THERE ANY FOODS TO BE AVOIDED?

Diet can play a major part in the symptoms.  Certain foods do make things worse and some degree of trial and error by patients is needed to discover which foods are to be avoided.  Tea coffee, milk products or alcohol can make symptoms of IBS worse.

AN STRESS OR ANXIETY MAKE THINGS WORSE?

Emotional stress may contribute to IBS. The brain and the intestine are closely connected by nerve fibres that control the automatic functioning of the intestinal muscles, and many people may experience nausea or diarrhoea when nervous or anxious. While we may not be able to control the effect stress has on our intestines, reducing the sources of stress in our lives - high pressure jobs, family tensions, etc. - may alleviate the symptoms of IBS.

HOW CAN I TELL IF THE PROBLEM IS IBS OR SOMETHING ELSE?

A careful medical history and physical examination by a colorectal surgeon, gastroenterologist, or your GP are essential to proper diagnosis. Tests performed to ensure that your symptoms are not caused by other problems may include blood tests, a flexible sigmoidoscopy examination, colonoscopy, barium enema x-ray examination.  

These tests are important to rule out other diseases or conditions such as cancer, diverticulitis, or inflammation of the bowel.

If you wish to arrange an appointment with Dr. Rob Church at Al Zahra Hospital Dubai

Contact Al Zahra Call Center on +971 4-378-6666