Irritable bowel syndrome is a functional disorder of the bowel affecting nearly 17% of adults in Australia and accounting for 25 to 50% of all referrals to gastroenterologists. Successful management encompasses an appreciation of its multifactorial aetiology and a biopsychosocial approach to treatment.
- IBS is a common, lifelong functional gastrointestinal disorder in which the hallmarks are abdominal pain associated with changes in bowel habit (stool form and/or frequency).
- A positive diagnosis of IBS is made clinically by identifying the typical symptom complex.
- A diagnosis of IBS requires at least six months of symptoms, with the patient having had three days of symptoms monthly for the past three months.
- Organic pathology can usually be simply excluded by the recognition of alarm features.
- Of those patients with IBS, 50% have coexistent depression/anxiety symptoms that should be sought and addressed.
- Management of IBS should be biopsychosocial and individualised, with options ranging from reassurance, education, dietary modifications and psychological interventions to a variety of medications aimed at controlling exacerbating symptoms.