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Definition of IBS (irritable bowel syndrome)

  • Medical Author:
    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    Dr. Shiel received a Bachelor of Science degree with honors from the University of Notre Dame. There he was involved in research in radiation biology and received the Huisking Scholarship. After graduating from St. Louis University School of Medicine, he completed his Internal Medicine residency and Rheumatology fellowship at the University of California, Irvine. He is board-certified in Internal Medicine and Rheumatology.

IBS (irritable bowel syndrome): A common gastrointestinal disorder involving an abnormal condition of gut contractions (motility) and gut sensation (hypersensitivity) characterized by abdominal pain, bloating, mucous in stools, and irregular bowel habits with constipation or diarrhea or alternating diarrhea and constipation, symptoms that tend to be chronic and to wax and wane over the years. Although irritable bowel syndrome can cause chronic recurrent discomfort, it does not lead to any serious abdominal organ problems.

Making the diagnosis usually involves suspecting and making a positive diagnosis and excluding other illnesses. Treatment is directed toward relief of symptoms and includes changes in diet (eating moderately high fiber and avoiding caffeine, milk products and sweeteners), exercise, relaxation techniques, and medications.

Also called spastic colitis, mucus colitis, nervous colon syndrome.

Reviewed on 12/27/2018

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