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