Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)

A combination of intermittent abdominal pain and constipation, diarrhoea, or bouts of each, that occurs in the absence of other diagnosed disease. IBS affects about 10–20 per cent of adults; it is twice as common in women as in men, usually beginning in early or middle adulthood. It is usually recurrent throughout life but is unlikely to lead to complications. Symptoms include intermittent cramplike pain in the abdomen, abdominal distension, often on the left side, transient relief of pain by bowel movement or passing wind, sense of incomplete evacuation of the bowels, and excessive wind. Anxiety and stress tend to exacerbate the condition. If constipation is the main problem, a high-fibre diet or bulk-forming agents, such as bran or methylcellulose, may be helpful. Short courses of antidiarrhoeal drugs may be given for persistent diarrhoea. Antispasmodic drugs may be prescribed to relieve muscular spasm. Hypnosis, psychotherapy, and counselling have proved effective in some cases.


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