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Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) are frequently confused.
Both of these conditions are chronic and cause abdominal pain, cramping, and frequent bowel movements. Despite the fact that they have similar acronyms and symptoms, these two conditions are very different.
IBS is a gastrointestinal (GI) tract disorder. IBD is characterized by inflammation or destruction of the bowel wall, which can result in sores and intestine narrowing. It is possible to have IBD as well as IBS.
We spoke with two gastroenterology physician-researchers to better understand the distinction between IBS and IBD.
What exactly is IBS?
IBS affects the lower GI tract, which includes the small, large, and colon intestines.
IBS patients have chronic diarrhea, constipation, or both in some cases. Also, you must try to play this IBS or IBD Quiz.
IBS or IBD quiz
IBS patients have been complaining to doctors for years about feeling gassy, bloated, and constipated. Many were dismissed or told they were stressed and needed psychological interventions rather than medical care.
“It’s a disease,” says Dr. Mark Pimentel, director of the GI Motility Program at Cedars-Sinai. “And even the terminology, irritable bowel syndrome, marginalizes the patients who have it.”
Dr. Pimentel believes that the primary cause of IBS is severe food poisoning, which has affected up to 70% of IBS patients.
Treatment for IBS
“It’s a one-and-done treatment with antibiotics for about a third of the patients who get IBS,” says Dr. Pimentel, who pioneered the use of the drug rifaximin to treat IBS.
“However, in order for many other patients to recover, you must re-treat the disease because the symptoms keep reappearing.”
Antibiotics, dietary changes, and sometimes medication to relieve constipation or diarrhea are among the treatments available.
Many IBS patients have gone untreated because they were told the condition was in their heads, but Dr. Pimentel’s simple blood test has made it possible to diagnose IBS.
What exactly is IBD?
Inflammation of the intestines is caused by IBD. IBD refers to a variety of diseases, the most common of which are Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis.
IBD is genetic for many patients, but no single gene has been identified as the cause of IBD.
“How severe the disease depends on a combination of genetic abnormalities and the effects of any number of microbes on the immune system,” says Dr. Stephan Targan, director of the Inflammatory Bowel Immunobiology Institute at Cedars-Sinai.
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The most common symptom of IBD, like IBS, is diarrhea. Abdominal cramps, bloody stool, blocked bowels, fever, loss of body fluids and appetite, extreme weight loss, and anemia are some of the other symptoms.
Treatment for IBD
IBD diagnosis is difficult and can take months. Following the collection of a patient’s medical and family history, they are given a physical exam, laboratory tests, and a variety of endoscopic procedures.
Dr. Targan’s blood tests can assist doctors in differentiating between types of IBD and optimizing treatments.
MRI and CT scans are sometimes used to confirm a diagnosis and to determine how much of the intestine is affected by IBD.
Because IBD is a chronic condition, careful disease management is an important part of treatment to ensure that patients have the best chance of controlling their symptoms.
Patients may require antibiotics, antidiarrheal medications, dietary changes, and, depending on the severity of the disease, surgery.
What should you do if you suspect you have IBS or IBD?
IBS or IBD affects millions of people. Consult a gastroenterologist about your symptoms if you suspect you have IBS or IBD. There is help available.