Though some may consider it a taboo topic to discuss, Irritable Bowel Syndrome, more commonly known as IBS, is a real ailment that affects 25 – 45 million Americans. In this post, we’ll explore what IBS is, examine how IBS Awareness Month can help educate the public, suggest ways to get involved in the month’s activities and how to get medical assistance with the condition if needed.
IBS is a chronic disorder of the large intestine, more common in women than men. Most often those who suffer from it are 45 years of age or younger. Unfortunately, the cause of the ailment is still unknown.
Symptoms experienced by those who are diagnosed with IBS may include any or all of the following: abdominal pain, bloating, gas, diarrhea, cramping and constipation. The good news is that IBS does not increase a patient’s risk of colorectal cancer or alter bowel tissue.
To test for IBS, patients may endure a series of procedures to rule out other ailments including:
- Blood Tests to check for celiac disease, anemia, tissue damage, inflammation or other abnormalities.
- Stool Samples to detect a parasite, blood in the feces or a bacterial infection that could mimic IBS symptoms.
- Verbal Questionnaires to detect psychological reasons for the digestive disruptions. Anxiety, depression and other mental health conditions could be a contributing factor for common IBS symptoms.
- A Colonoscopy to examine the rectum and large bowel via scope. This is a test conducted most often when the patient has rapid weight loss, rectal bleeding or shows other signs that could indicate more serious issues.
Because IBS is a long-term condition, those who are diagnosed with it must learn ways to manage it, usually by modifying their lifestyle. This can mean consuming an altered diet, employing stress-reduction techniques, attending counseling and in more serious cases, taking prescribed medications. Many healthcare professionals choose to treat IBS patients holistically to provide the most comprehensive approach to achieving relief.
About IBS Awareness Month
In 1997, April was officially designated as IBS Awareness Month. Creating this national recognition helps those who have it understand ways to cope with the condition and those who know someone affected by it to better relate to its impact on their lives.
Here are some resources that were created to foster IBS awareness:
- Fast Facts About IBS (Badgut.org)
- A Symptom Checker for Those Who Suspect They May Have IBS (IFFGD)
- A National Charity to Support Those with IBS (The IBS Network)
How to Get Involved
If you or someone you know suffers from IBS, you can help reduce the stigmas associated with discussing the condition and share information about IBS Awareness Month. The International Foundation for Gastrointestinal Disorders has prepared a handy toolkit where you can get facts, social media messaging (including key hashtags) and ideas about how to mobilize communities to educate the public about IBS.
Talk to a Doctor for More Information
If you’re experiencing symptoms of IBS and want to consult with a medical professional, the Gastroenterology/Endoscopy team at Western Washington Medical Group can help. Providing excellent care since 1980, they are accredited by the Accreditation Association for Ambulatory Healthcare (AAAHC) and provide the only outpatient endoscopy service in Snohomish County.
With the Endoscopy Center in Everett and Satellite offices in Anacortes, Monroe, Mill Creek/Bothell and Oak Harbor, we’re available to serve you in the location most convenient to your home.
Visit this page to request an appointment with a GI Specialist. Once you have a visit scheduled, download forms from this page (scroll down to the section that reads: Gastroenterology/Endoscopy). For more general inquiries, complete the form on this page.