Screening And Tests For Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)

Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a colon disorder that often causes abdominal pain, bloating, gas, diarrhea, and constipation. A knowledgeable physician can diagnose Irritable Bowel Syndrome through careful review of a patient’s symptoms, a physical exam, and diagnostic testing. In the past, IBS was diagnosed by exclusion only, which means first many other conditions and disorders needed to be ruled out. The newer approach focuses mostly on signs and symptoms and utilizes only limited diagnostic testing.

According to Dr. Itriago MD,

“IBS is a poorly understood condition, and no one is quite sure what causes it. Consequently, IBS treatment and testing are highly individualized.”

Testing would be done based on a physician’s judgment after examining many factors such as family history, symptoms, stress factors, etc.

Here are some tests that are relevant to the diagnosis of IBS:

  • Blood Tests: A complete blood screening is often done to check for anemia and other abnormalities. Other blood tests that check for tissue damage, inflammation, or celiac disease may also be performed.

  • Stool Tests: These tests typically check for intestinal parasites, bacterial infections, or blood in the stool.

  • Colonoscopy or Sigmoidoscopy: These tests are visual examinations of the colon and rectum and are performed using a scope camera. Colonoscopy or sigmoidoscopy would be performed if there are warning signs such as unexplained weight loss or rectal bleeding. Also, for patients 50+ years old, doctors will want to perform one of these exams to screen for colon cancer.

  • Barium Enema: The barium enema is an X-ray test. After the colon is coated with the barium solution, x-ray images are taken to detect abnormalities.

  • Psychological Tests: Questionnaires to detect anxiety, stress, or depression will sometimes be performed, as emotional distress may be a factor that causes or worsens IBS symptoms.

  • Breath Tests: A hydrogen breath test may be performed to detect lactase deficiency, also known as lactose intolerance. Lactulose or glucose breath tests may be administered to detect any signs of bacterial overgrowth in the intestines.

  • Anorectal Manometry: This test measures muscle and nerve function of the anus and rectum.

  • Capsule Endoscopy: This will test for Crohn’s disease or other abnormalities of the small intestine.

Diagnosis and Symptoms

While any of these tests may assist a physician in making a diagnosis of IBS, the primary factor in the decision-making process will be the presence of certain symptoms.

  • The primary symptom of IBS is abdominal pain, especially abdominal pain associated with a change in bowel habits. This change can be characterized by frequency or consistency of stool. If the pain occurs along with diarrhea or constipation, then you may have IBS.

  • Symptoms of abdominal bloating or distension are also sometimes present in patients with IBS.

There are certain signs and symptoms of abdominal issues that act as a red flag for other more serious disorders that must be addressed before a physician can diagnose you with IBS.

These red flag symptoms include:

  • Anemia or abnormal blood tests

  • New symptoms appearing past the age of 50

  • Fever

  • Blood in the stool

  • Unintentional weight loss

  • Family history of GI diseases

 Who Can Help?

Irritable Bowel Syndrome is a serious condition, that requires immediate medical attention. If you think you might have IBS, don’t hesitate to contact our experienced physicians at Colorectal Clinic of Tampa Bay that will find the tailored treatment for you.