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Irritable bowel syndrome

Oversensitive intestines

Irritable bowel syndrome is a common intestinal disorder resulting from an oversensitivity of the muscles and nerves of the intestine, which affects the way they function. This may cause cramping, bloating, gassiness, and changes in bowel habits ranging from diarrhea to constipation. Despite its discomfort, IBS does not permanently harm the intestines or lead to cancer. IBS may be triggered by certain foods, such as complex carbohydrates, fatty foods, caffeine or alcohol, or emotional stress.

Symptoms

Mild to severe cramps, gas, diarrhea or constipation.

Diagnosis

May include a physical exam, medical history of symptoms, and stool sample test for evidence of bleeding or infection. Test results may lead to further testing to check for other medical problems, particularly if the patient experiences significant bleeding or weight loss, or has a family history of cancer.

Treatment

A healthy, balanced diet that avoids foods that, in consultation with a doctor, seem to cause digestive problems; stress management; medications to control diarrhea or constipation.