Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a common disorder that affects the large intestine. Signs and symptoms include cramping, abdominal pain, bloating, gas, and diarrhea or constipation, or both. IBS is a chronic condition that you’ll need to manage long-term
Only a small number of people with IBS have severe signs and symptoms. Some people can control their symptoms by managing diet, lifestyle, and stress. More-severe symptoms can be treated with medication and counseling.
IBS doesn’t cause changes in bowel tissue or increase your risk of colorectal cancer.
The signs and symptoms of IBS vary. The most common include:
- Abdominal pain, cramping or bloating that is typically relieved or partially relieved by passing a bowel movement
- Excess gas
- Diarrhea or constipation — sometimes alternating bouts of diarrhea and constipation
- Mucus in the stool
Most people with IBS experience times when the signs and symptoms are worse and times when they improve or even disappear completely.
When to see a doctor
See your doctor if you have a persistent change in bowel habits or other signs or symptoms of IBS. They may indicate a more serious condition, such as colon cancer. More-serious signs and symptoms include:
- Weight loss
- Diarrhea at night
- Rectal bleeding
- Iron deficiency anemia
- Unexplained vomiting
- Difficulty swallowing
- Persistent pain that isn’t relieved by passing gas or a bowel movement