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Irritable Bowel Syndrome/Can this be irritable bowel syndrome?

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Question
Hello! I am a 17 year old female and for the past several months I've been suffering from some abdominal pain that comes in waves and small intervals and is more of a cramping/spasming pain when it is present. This pain more often presents itself in my lower abdomen, and closer to the left side, however I have felt it all over my abdomen at different times. There has also been a change in my stool and it ranges from normal bulky type stool to having me strain over soft stool that sometimes comes out in pieces or strips that are often flattened but not so small to be classified as ribbon like. I also often get the feeling as though my bowels have not been completely emptied and I have an urge to go more however, I can not seem to do so. There is no visible blood in the stool but occasional mucus. I have not been experiencing diarrhea and there is no history of colon cancer in my family. My mother had colitis at one time and my aunt also has colitis but I've not had any of the symptoms of colitis besides mucus in the stool. Could this be Irritable Bowel Syndrome? Please help!

Answer
Lauren, thank you getting in touch. Your symptoms of abdominal pain with altered bowel habit are all consistent with a diagnosis of IBS or Irritable Bowel Syndrome and you can read more about IBS on my web site, IBS Help Online.  When making a diagnosis of IBS, doctors use something called the Rome criteria. This is a set criterion of symptoms such as longstanding abdominal pain and change in bowel habit that you have. There are other conditions that can mimic IBS such as chronic infections like Giardiasis, Inflammatory Bowel Disease and coeliac disease. All these conditions can occur in your age group so its always important to get it checked. You may need to have some further investigations such as blood tests, a stool sample and possibly an endoscopic examination of your bowel.

Your diagnosis from your described symptoms would be IBS-A (alternating constipation and diarrhea). To help improve these IBS symptoms there are various IBS treatment options available to you and you can read more about these in the treatment section of IBS Help Online. I believe the single most important way of improving symptoms is with an IBS diet and for your collection of symptoms this would initially be with a high fiber diet and if this fails an exclusion diet. To understand more about this and the sort of foods you should be eating or excluding you can read more in the diet section of IBS Help Online.

It is also important to understand you are not alone with these symptoms Lauren. 1 in 4 of us experience IBS symptoms at some point in our lives. It is a condition that ‘waxes and wanes’ in severity, but thankfully is not associated with serious or life threatening illness. There are lots of other symptoms other than bowel symptoms such as tiredness; muscle aches and pains, increased urine frequency and many more. It is because of this, I believe IBS is a multisystem disorder rather than a bowel condition alone. Never feel alone with this condition, always discuss it and keep in touch if you need any more help.

I hope this helps and best wishes to you.

Peter

Irritable Bowel Syndrome

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Dr Peter Thatcher MBBS, MRCPI. IBS Physician & Gastroenterologist

Expertise

I can answer questions on all aspects of IBS or the Irritable Bowel Syndrome, Medicine and Gastroenterology. This would include aspects of diagnosis, investigation and management of IBS and other gastroenterology or medical conditions.

Experience

I am a Consultant Physician and Gastroenterologist in the United Kingdom. I qualified as a physician in 1993 and have been practicing Medicine and Gastroenterology ever since. I regularly run gastroenterology clinics and 1:4 patients have IBS. I am also the web master of IBS Help Online, an Irritable Bowel Syndrome help site.

Organizations
British Society of Gastroenterology Member of the Royal College of Physicians of Ireland Consultant Physician and Gastroenterologist, Royal Cornwall Hospital, Truro, Cornwall. UK

Education/Credentials
Consultant Physician and Gastroenterologist, Fully UK Trained Medical Degree at Kings College School of Medicine & Dentistry 1993 Membership of the Royal College of Physicians of Ireland Examinations 1997

Awards and Honors
MBBS 1993 MRCPI 1997

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