Irritable bowel syndrome is perhaps one of the most difficult medical problems to diagnose. In addition to having no specific cause, irritable bowel syndrome cannot also be tested as there are no diagnostic tests that can confirm the condition.
What is IBS?
Irritable bowel syndrome is dysfunction in the large intestine, the part of the digestive system that is responsible for the storage and excretion of solid body wastes. According to experts, it seems that people suffering from irritable bowel syndrome have large intestines that are very sensitive to stimulation, too much so that the slightest change in the bodily function can cause the whole system to go haywire.
Although there are no known causes of the problem, most doctors agree that food intake and the stress that the body experience may play a role in triggering the problem. Similar to allergic reactions, there are certain foods that may irritate the large intestine and lead to either constipation or diarrhea. Milk products for instance, can cause irritable bowel syndrome.
No direct cause
The lack of direct cause is also the reason why there is no diagnostic test that can confirm the diagnosis. Doctors have to rely on the accounts of the patients about their symptoms as well as the medical history. Diagnosis can only be achieved if the set of criteria is fulfilled. This means that the presence of only one symptom is not enough to make a diagnosis. The doctor must find a set of symptoms before drawing conclusions. Thus, it is called a syndrome and not just a disorder. This, however, can be rather confusing as most if not all of the symptoms under irritable bowel syndrome are those that are also present in other diseases.
What are its symptoms?
According to the Rome II Diagnostic Criteria System, often used in the diagnosis of gastrointestinal disorders, a problem is diagnosed as irritable bowel syndrome if there is a 12 month-period of abdominal pain accompanied by two of these three factors, pain is relieved when the person has already excreted the waste material; the onset is associated with a change in the frequency of defecating, either by constipation or diarrhea; or the onset is associated with a change in the appearance of the stool. Accompaniment of these factors must have a duration of at least 12 weeks and is not necessarily consecutive.