Talking about irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) can be as uncomfortable as its symptoms. However, IBS is a relatively common condition affecting about 20 percent of the U.S. population, according to Dr. Kuldip Sandhu, an expert gastroenterologist with Mercy Medical Group. Dr. Sandhu answers important questions about IBS below.
What is irritable bowel syndrome?
Irritable bowel syndrome is a chronic disorder that refers to a group of symptoms that affect the abdomen, including abdominal cramping, bloating, and a change of bowel habits. Some IBS patients experience constipation, while others may experience diarrhea. Patients who experience temporary symptoms of stomach pains, diarrhea, bloating, etc., may not necessarily have IBS. Because there are so many different symptoms, it is important to speak with your doctor if you think you may have IBS.
Who is at risk?
It is still a medical mystery why some people get IBS and others don’t. However, there are certain factors that can make a person more susceptible. Many patients are surprised to know that IBS is more common in women compared to men. In addition, it is more likely to occur in people between the ages of 25 and 54, but the majority of people are younger than 50.
How do I know if I have IBS?
There is not one single test which can be done to establish the diagnosis of IBS. A diagnosis is usually made by a primary care doctor or gastroenterologist based on established/internationally agreed-upon criteria. It is important to acknowledge that IBS is unpredictable and different for everyone, so it is crucial to share your symptoms with your health care provider.
What are common misconceptions about IBS?
I would like more patients to know that IBS does not shorten longevity and IBS does not lead to other medical conditions like colon cancer or inflammatory bowel disease.
Furthermore, IBS is a condition that cannot yet be completely cured. The good news is that there are many treatment options available to help manage symptoms of IBS.
The symptoms of IBS are chronic, meaning they are persistent and constantly reoccurring. So while IBS is chronic, the symptoms can wax and wane and are intermittent. This is why so many patients wait to bring up symptoms to a medical professional. But it’s important to talk to your doctor if you have persistent stomach and digestion issues, even if the issues or symptoms change. For example, approximately a third of patients with IBS have constipation, another third have diarrhea, and the last third alternate between constipation and diarrhea.
Why should I see a doctor about IBS?
IBS not only affects a person’s health, but also their quality of life. Ignoring these conditions or refraining from seeking treatments can lead to serious complications on your digestive tract. Anal fissures, fecal impaction, hemorrhoids, malnourishment, and rectal prolapse are a few physical health complications that may occur.
It is essential to receive a diagnosis as soon as IBS is suspected because many symptoms of IBS can be confused with those of more serious conditions, like Crohn’s disease or inflammatory bowel disease. Therefore, to guide proper treatment, it is important to receive a differential diagnosis from a medical professional.
Dr. Kuldip Sandhu is currently accepting new patients, and his office located at 6555 Coyle Ave., Ste. 341 in Carmichael, CA. To learn more about Dr. Sandhu or Mercy Medical Group, please visit MyMercyMedicalGroup.org, or call 916.827.1178.