Irritable Bowel Syndrome, or simply “IBS,” is one of the most annoying medical conditions a man can be diagnosed with. Despite this fact, luckily, the disease does not affect the lifespan of these patients.
To have a better look at such an illness, we should briefly understand what IBS means first. “IBS” features a group of symptoms that includes tummy pain and changes in the pattern of bowel habits without any damage to the structure of the intestines themselves.
The latter is the key piece to understand why diagnosing a case of IBS is quite difficult and needs special attention from doctors. Basically, there is no certain definitive diagnostic test that could diagnose IBS. Therefore, establishing the diagnosis is made by exclusion; this means the doctor should rule out any other disease that could produce the same symptoms than IBS.
Under this light, various tests may be needed before rushing to inform the patient that he or she might be suffering from such a bothering disease. These tests may be as simple as running a basic stool test to search for any bugs that could have infected the bowels. More sophisticated investigations could be used, such as an endoscopy, which uses a flexible wire with a camera attached to its front part to be introduced and visualise the intestines from the inside, and even collecting samples could be to be analyzed afterward. Imaging techniques could be of great help as well to exclude any problems in the walls of the bowels as tumors or even abscesses.
A key point which should be thoroughly investigated is to search for absorption problems. For such an aspect, specific tests could be done. Tests for Lactose intolerance, one of the famous malabsorption diseases, and another test called “Breath test.”
Coeliac disease’s investigations could be requested as well, as this disease could produce symptoms typically found in a patient with IBS. The American College of Gastroenterology recommends all people with symptoms of IBS to be tested for coeliac disease to evade making a misdiagnosis.
Are these measures the only ones we have currently at hands? Luckily, the answer is no.
Typically, to ensure that the diagnostic process of IBS is on the right path, physical examinations and certain evaluations should be done. “Rome Criteria” is used for this purpose. A significant finding is recurrent tummy pain, on average, at least 1 day per week in the last 3 months, associated with two or more of the following criteria:
- Related to passing stool
- Associated with a change in frequency of stool
- Associated with a change in the appearance of stools
With these criteria fulfilled, it will be possible to reach a diagnosis.
Another method is implementing what is called “Manning Criteria,” which focuses on specific findings related to how the patient passes stool and on the appearance of the stool itself.
Despite the fact that IBS itself is not a life-threating disease and does not affect the patient’s quality of life, a group of symptoms should be ruled out or investigated if present. They are as follows:
- If the patient’s age is more than 50 years old during the onset of any bowel problems
- Significant weight loss
- Bleeding while passing stool
- Any persistent defecation or diarrhea
Read also; 10 Warning Signs & Symptoms of Colon Cancer.
In the presence of such symptoms, further investigations would be requested as these symptoms can be described as being “red flags” and may indicate a severe underlying medical condition.
In addition to what is stated above, we should expect that we may still have a narrow chance of misdiagnoses. In details, some patients with IBS can be subjected to unnecessary surgical procedures such as appendectomy “removal of appendix,” cholecystectomy “removal of gall bladder” or hysterectomy in female patients “removal of the uterus.” One of the grave mistakes is to miss making a diagnosis of what is called Inflammatory Bowel Disease or simply “IBD,” an aggressive syndrome consisting of a group of symptoms that could be more severe and could direly affect the patient’s quality of life.
In view of the above, it can be concluded that establishing a diagnosis of IBS is not a piece-a-cake issue and it requires more than the usual attention to do so. The reason for saying this is that many more serious diseases could slip thorough the physician’s fingers leading to resulting of complications that could be prevented if correct measures were taken in the first place.
Lastly, let us hope that enough research would be done in the future to have a better understanding of the real cause of IBS so that we can figure out the best way to diagnose this challenging illness.