A woman engaging in a consultation with a doctor Medical Conditions
Irritable Bowel Syndrome

Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) is a very common disorder that affects the small and large intestine.

The precise cause of IBS is not known, but a number of factors are thought to play a role including:

  • Abnormal motility or movement of the bowel
  • Abnormalities in the nerves of your digestive system
  • Severe infection leading to changes in the bowel
  • Overgrowth of bacteria in the bowel
  • Changes in the bacteria in the gut (microflora).
IBS can also be triggered by food, stress and hormones. Common symptoms and signs include:

  • Abdominal pain which often eases after going to the toilet
  • Diarrhoea or constipation or both
  • Feeling bloated
  • Excessive gas
  • Passing mucus
  • Feeling of urgently needing to go to the toilet
  • Loss of appetite
  • Tiredness
  • Pain during sexual intercourse (women)
  • Intolerance of certain foods
It is important to see your doctor or specialist if you have a persistent change in bowel habit or other symptoms and signs of IBS as they might indicate a more serious condition such as bowel/colon cancer.
Urgent medical review is recommended if you have any of these serious symptoms or signs:

  • Weight loss
  • Diarrhoea at night
  • Rectal bleeding
  • Iron deficiency anaemia
  • Unexplained vomiting
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Persistent abdominal pain that isn’t relieved by passing gas or a bowel movement.


The diagnosis of IBS is made after a full consultation including your history, an examination and relevant blood or stool tests. Your specialist will advise you about the need of performing other tests such as stool tests to exclude infection, colonoscopy to check for inflammatory bowel disease and breath testing for food intolerances.

Irritable bowel syndrome does not lead to cancer and is usually treatable with changes to diet, lifestyle and the use of some medications. A comprehensive assessment by one of our gastroenterologists and a dietitian is recommended to help manage this condition.


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