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NHS Choices Condition

Content supplied by NHS Choices

If you have the symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), your GP will usually recommend that you undergo a blood test in order that other conditions that cause similar symptoms, such as infection, or Coeliac disease (a stomach condition caused by gluten intolerance) can be ruled out.

GPs can usually confidently diagnose IBS by asking you about your symptoms.

Your GP will ask you whether you have had any of the following symptoms that have lasted for at least six months:

  • changes in your bowel habits, such as constipation, or diarrhoea,
  • pain and discomfort in your abdomen, and
  • a bloated feeling.

Your GP will be looking for some specific symptoms that are needed for a positive diagnosis of IBS. These are either:

  • abdominal pain, or discomfort, that goes away after you empty your bowel, or
  • abdominal pain, or discomfort, with a change in your bowel habits - for example, you may go to toilet more often than you did before, or you may produce stools that look different from usual.

For IBS to be diagnosed, you will also need to have at least two of the following symptoms:

  • a change in how you pass stools, such as needing to strain, feeling a sense of urgency, or feeling that you have not emptied your bowels properly,
  • bloating, hardness or tension in your abdomen,
  • symptoms that are worse after eating, or
  • the passing of mucus from your rectum (back passage).

When further tests are required

Further testing is usually only required when you have specific symptoms, or signs, that suggest that you may have a more serious condition than IBS. These symptoms include:

  • unexplained weight loss,
  • abdominal and rectal mass (localised swelling in the abdomen and/or rectum),
  • bleeding from your rectum (back passage), and
  • anaemia (a condition that occurs when there is a reduced number of red blood cells, or haemoglobin concentration in the blood).

Further testing may also be recommended if you have a family history of bowel, or ovarian, cancer, or if you are over 60 years of age and you have experienced a change in your bowel habits that has lasted more than six weeks.

view information about Irritable Bowel Syndrome on www.nhs.co.uk »

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