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Irritable Bowel Syndrome
See Dr. Wangen's website completely devoted to Irritable Bowel Syndrome for more information by clicking HERE.
Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a chronic gastrointestinal illness. It may be continuous or remittent, and may include one or more of the following symptoms: abdominal pain, bloating, diarrhea or constipation, or both diarrhea and constipation. Although these symptoms may not seem to many people to be especially severe, IBS is not a trivial condition. Patients often state that their symptoms completely dominate and significantly alter their lives.
IBS is a diagnosis of exclusion, meaning that this diagnosis is given when no better answer can be found. There is no test or exam to confirm the diagnosis of IBS, and the diagnosis provides little insight into the cause of the condition. Difficulty in confirming the diagnosis of IBS may cause worry and doubt in patients, leading to numerous visits to doctors and repeated tests. Unnecessary surgical procedures that do not resolve IBS may complicate the condition with scar pain, adhesions, and further alteration of digestive habits.
IBS is considered to be an illness rather than a disease. The diagnosis of IBS is arbitrary and often incorrect, and traditional medical treatment is often ineffective. Unfortunately many potential causes of the symptoms of IBS are often overlooked. If you have or think you have IBS, you should be screened for several causal factors.
It is estimated that some 35 million Americans suffer from Irritable Bowel Syndrome. This is nearly 20% of the population. Somewhere in the neighborhood of $8 billion is spent per year on IBS in the United States.
Who Gets Irritable Bowel Syndrome?
IBS appears to be more common in Western industrialized countries that in some developing countries, and more common in rural Africa than in African cities. It is also more common in Asians living in American cities than among whites or Hispanics.
In the United States women report symptoms of IBS approximately four times more often than men. Female patients also seem to have more frequent and more severe symptoms and more interference with daily activities. They are less likely to attribute their symptoms to stress than male patients. In Asia nearly the opposite is true. Studies of both India and Sri lank a have shown that that more men than women seek help for IBS.
Sociologists suggest that women in Western cultures are more likely to report abdominal symptoms to their doctors because of patterns of socialization learned during childhood. Women either experience more gastrointestinal symptoms than men, or they are more likely to report them.
Some researchers have suggested that cognitive processing of visceral sensations is amplified to a greater extent in women than in men, but physiologic evidence shows that healthy women have greater rectal sensitivity, slower bowel transit, and smaller stool output than men. To some extent the female preponderance may depend on the bias given to certain symptoms, because straining and passage of hard stool are more frequent in women, whereas frequent and loose stools are more common in men.
IBS can affect people at any age, although evidence suggest a greater prevalence of IBS in younger people rather than older adults, and a notable decline in prevalence in people age 50 and older. IBS tend to occur for the first time in the young and is common in schoolchildren.
Dr. Stephen Wangen
IBS TreatmentCenter and Center for Food Allergies
11300 Roosevelt Way NE Suite 100 Seattle, WA 98125 • 206-264-1111
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