An expert panel has outlined a list of
symptoms common in
irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). Doctors often use this
list of symptoms, known as the Rome III criteria, to distinguish IBS from other
intestinal problems. However, people who don't have all of these symptoms may
still have IBS.
You meet the Rome III criteria for IBS if your
symptoms began at least 6 months ago, you have had abdominal pain or discomfort
at least 3 days each month in the last 3 months, and at least two of the
following statements are true:1
- The pain is relieved by having a bowel movement.
- The pain is linked to a change in how often you have a bowel
- The pain is linked to a change in the appearance or consistency
of your stool.
The presence of any of the following symptoms supports a
diagnosis of IBS.
Bowel movement patterns
When you have IBS, your
pattern of bowel movements may be different over time. Two or more of the
following may happen:
- Bowel movements may occur either more often (diarrhea) or less
often (constipation) than usual, such as having more than 3 bowel movements a
day or less than 3 a week.
- Bowel movements may differ in size or consistency (may be hard
and pelletlike, pencil-thin, or loose and watery).
- The way stools pass changes. You may strain, feel an urgent
need to have a bowel movement, or feel that you haven't completely passed a
- You may have bloating or a feeling of gas in the
Other intestinal symptoms
Some people may have
lower abdominal pain with constipation that is sometimes followed by diarrhea.
Other people have pain and mild constipation but no diarrhea.
Symptoms that are sometimes present include intestinal gas and passage of
mucus in stools.
You may sometimes
have other symptoms that don't affect the intestines, such as:
- Anxiety or depression.
- Unpleasant taste in the mouth.
- Sleeping problems (insomnia) not caused by symptoms of
- Sexual problems, such as pain during sex or reduced sexual
- Heart palpitations (feeling like the heart skips a beat or is
- Urinary symptoms (frequent or urgent need to urinate, trouble
starting the urine stream, trouble emptying the bladder).
Symptoms often occur after a meal, during stressful
times, or during menstruation.
There are many
other conditions with symptoms similar to IBS.
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