Healthy Living

How is IBS Diagnosed?

How is IBS Diagnosed?

Key Takeaways

  • The diagnosis of IBS depends hugely on an inclusive medical history and an exhaustive physical examination.
  • There is no cure for IBS as the reason is still unclear.
  • If you feel like you have any of the symptoms, it is always best to consult a professional.

IBS Tests and Diagnosis

The diagnosis of IBS depends hugely on an inclusive medical history and an exhaustive physical examination.

Criteria for Diagnosing the Irritable Bowel Syndrome

Since there are no major physical symptoms to definitively diagnose IBS, its diagnosis normally entails in ruling out other disorders. To facilitate this procedure, researchers have formulated two sets of analytical criteria for IBS and many other gastrointestinal diseases. Both criteria are based on signs or symptoms after all other conditions are discarded.

Rome Criteria: For these criteria, an individual must showcase some signs or symptoms before the physician diagnoses IBS. They could be abdominal pains and disturbances lasting more than 3 days a month in the past three months accompanied by improvement after defecation, varied stool frequency or altered stool consistency.

Manning Criteria: The main focus of this criterion is on pain reduction by defecation, having partial bowel movements, drastic variations in stool consistency and presence of mucus in stool. The more the symptoms, the greater are the chances of being infected with IBS.

Your doctor will carefully assess how your signs and symptoms fit into these criteria and also determine if your symptoms suggest the presence of any serious other gastrointestinal disorders. Some severe signs that demand additional tests include:

  • Fever
  • Weight loss
  • Nausea and recurrent vomiting
  • New onset for people above 50 years of age
  • Anemia
  • Abdominal pain which is not relieved with bowel movements
  • Rectal bleeding
  • Persistent diarrhea that interferes with sleep

If your symptoms match with the IBS criteria, it implies that you do not have any serious disorders and your doctor may recommend treatment without performing any further tests. But if your body does not respond positively to that medication, you will possibly need more tests.

Additional IBS Tests

Your doctor might suggest multiple tests including stool monitoring to check for probable infections or inability of your intestine to absorb food nutrients. You may go through several tests to discard other causes of your signs and symptoms.

Imaging tests include:

  • Flexible sigmoidoscopyThe lower region of the colon referred as the sigmoid is examined using a flexible illuminated tube.
  • Computerized Tomography Scan:  CT scans generate sectioned X-ray images of all internal organs. Undertaking exhaustive CT scans can really help your doctor in ruling out other initiators of your symptoms, especially when you experience abdominal pains.
  • X-ray Radiography: At times, your doctor may utilize X-rays to acquire a detailed image of your colon.
  • Lower GI Series: During this test, doctors fill the large intestine with barium in order to make any infections/disorders more visible on the X-ray.
  • Colonoscopy:  If you’re above 50 years or have more serious symptoms, your doctor might carry out this diagnostic test where a tiny, flexible tube is utilized to examine the whole length of your colon.

Laboratory IBS tests include:

  • Blood tests: The celiac disorder is highly sensitive to barley, rye protein and wheat which may trigger the signs or symptoms similar to those of IBS. A blood test can help rule out this condition. Children having IBS are greatly susceptible to the celiac disorder than children who are IBS free. If your doctor thinks that you are suffering from celiac disease, then he/she might conduct an upper endoscopy to acquire a biopsy of the small intestine.
  • Lactose intolerance tests:  If your body does not produce the enzyme Lactase (responsible for digestion of sugar available in dairy products), then you could be having problems related to those triggered by the IBS syndrome. These symptoms include diarrhea, abdominal pain and gas. To determine if this is the reason for your symptoms, the doctor may perform a breath test or suggest the removal of milk products from your diet for quite some time.
  • Stool tests:  If you experience chronic diarrhea, your doctor may have to inspect your stool for parasites and bacteria.
  • Breath tests: To determine if any bacterial over growths are existent, your physician may have to perform a detailed breath test. Bacteria might overgrow into the small intestine causing abdominal disturbances, diarrhea and bloating.  
  • Psychological tests: Questionnaires that detect anxiety, depression or other psychological problems may be used to supplement the evaluation.
  • Miscellaneous test
  • Anorectal manometry test: To measure the functions of the muscles and nerves of the anus and rectum.
  • Capsule endoscopy: This is the most accurate way to detect Crohn's disease (a chronic inflammatory disease that affects the lining of the digestive track) or other abnormalities of the small intestine.
  • Colonic transit: To measure the rate of movement of contents in the colon.
  • Hydrogen breath test: To detect lactose intolerance.
  • Blood biomarker profile: To distinguish IBS from other medical disorders. This test requires refinement to achieve sufficient accuracy for a routine screening evaluation.

Treatment and Drugs

  • There is no cure for IBS as the reason is still unclear. Hence the treatment basically focuses on relieving the symptoms for you to live a life with lesser discomfort. The most common method is by changing the lifestyle. You will have to adopt to a healthy and safe lifestyle. It includes a change in diet and the way of living.
  • Eliminating high gas food: During this condition, it is extremely necessary to cut down on foods like cabbage, beans and broccol, which are high on gas.
  • Avoid Dairy products: Lactose is present in diary products and its effects may vary from person to person. But the doctor would usually recommend you to stay away from diary products if you have IBS. In this case, you must ensure to consume proteins and calcium through other sources.
  • Anti-Diarrheal medications: You need to be cautious while using anti-diarrheal medicines such as Kaopectate, Imodium or laxatives such as polyethylene glycol or milk of magnesia. Some of these medicines need to be taken 20-30 minutes before having a meal to prevent the symptoms. Follow the directions on the pack to avoid mistakes or talk to your doctor.

Diagnosing IBS should be left to the doctors. Hence if you feel like you have any of the symptoms, it is always best to consult a professional.