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IBS vs. IBD: What Is the Difference?

Health Articles |
Categories: Gastroenterology
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IBS vs. IBD: What's the Difference?

Despite having similar names and sharing some of the same symptoms, inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) are two very different gastrointestinal (GI) disorders. Both are chronic (long-term) conditions that cause stomach pain, bloating, diarrhea or constipation. Both disorders require thoughtful diagnosis and careful medical supervision to control discomfort and provide symptom relief.

Diagnosing IBD and IBS

According to Doylestown Health gastroenterologist Nasir Akhtar, DO , a person can have both IBS and IBD at the same time. He recommends that if you are experiencing abdominal pain, gas, bloating, diarrhea, constipation, or bloody stools, that you not ignore these symptoms and seek help. An evaluation by a gastroenterologist is necessary to get the correct diagnosis to manage the condition appropriately.

“An evaluation gets the patient one step closer to a diagnosis, which is one step closer to a treatment plan for feeling better,” explains Dr. Akhtar.

Evaluation for both conditions starts with a full patient history, including an accounting of symptoms, when they started and the severity. From this, the doctor will determine if testing is required. There is no specific test for IBS, which is determined through clinical evaluation. Testing for IBD could include blood and stool tests, MRI and CT scans. A colonoscopy to evaluate the lining of the GI tract may be recommended if either condition is suspected.

What is IBS?

IBS affects the lower GI area and is a disturbance in bowel function that can range from mild to disabling. Symptoms include abdominal pain, constipation alternating with diarrhea, abdominal bloating and gassiness.

IBS affects 10 to 15 percent of adults in the U.S., mostly women, and is often associated with other functional disorders such as fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome and temporomandibular joint disorder (TMJ). IBS does not cause inflammation, does not increase the risk for colon cancer or IBD and rarely requires hospitalization or surgery.

Treatment for IBS

Treatment for IBS focuses on symptom relief and can include dietary changes such as cutting out lactose, beans, broccoli, cabbage and certain fruits. Stress reduction techniques, and in some cases medication such as antibiotics, can bring relief.

What is IBD?

IBD is a potentially more damaging condition. It is an umbrella term used to refer to disorders that involve a chronic inflammation of the intestines that causes damage. Types of IBD include Crohn’s disease and Ulcerative Colitis. Dr. Akhtar explains that the inflammation associated with IBD is the result of the immune system attacking normal cells, creating bowel injury. While the exact cause is unknown, researchers believe that genetics, the environment, and an overactive immune system contribute to IBD.

Treatment for IBD

There is currently no cure for IBD. The goal of treating IBD is to reduce and prevent damaging swelling of the intestines. Depending on disease severity, IBD may need to be treated indefinitely. Treatment options include dietary changes and medication such as anti-inflammatories, antibiotics, antidiarrheal drugs, steroids, or other medications. Sometimes surgery is necessary.

It is important that you speak to your doctor about the right options for you if you have IBD.


About Gastroenterology

Our caring, compassionate gastroenterologists are experts in the diagnosis and treatment of disorders and diseases of the digestive system. Using advanced screening tools, state-of-the-art treatments and innovative technology, our gastroenterology team delivers comprehensive care for conditions of the esophagus, stomach, small intestine, colon and rectum, pancreas, gallbladder, bile ducts and liver. The Open Access Colonoscopy Program allows healthy patients the convenience of scheduling a screening colonoscopy without an initial office visit.

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