Monday, June 24, 2013

Irritable Bowel Syndrome and Inflammatory Bowel Disease: What's the Difference and Which One Do I Have?

Many people get confused between the terms Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) and Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD), and understandably so. Many of the symptoms of these diseases are similar and, in fact, may people who have IBD are first diagnosed with IBS before receiving the correct diagnosis. So, what are the differences?

Main Differences between IBS and IBD

The biggest difference between IBS and IBD is that IBS is a syndrome, not a disease. IBS does not lead to colon cancer and it does not cause bleeding. IBD, on the other hand, is a disease, can lead to colon cancer and bleeding is one of the main symptoms.

IBD includes a group of diseases in the gastrointestinal tract. The two main diseases are Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis. Crohn's disease can affect the entire gastrointestinal tract, from the mouth all the way down to the anus. Ulcerative colitis is limited to the rectum and large intestine (colon).

Symptom Differences between IBS and IBD

General symptoms of IBS include:

•Abdominal pain
•Bloating
•Cramping
•Diarrhea or constipation

For people with IBD, all of the above symptoms apply in addition to:

•Rectal bleeding
•Fever
•Weight loss
•Inflammation/ulcers of the gastrointestinal tract seen during colonoscopy and/or endoscopy

Treatment Differences

The difference in the treatment of IBS and IBD is that with IBS, the focus of the treatment is on the symptoms. Anti-diarrhea medication is given if diarrhea is the main symptom. Diet change may be necessary if offending foods are causing the problem. Changes in stressful activities may be required if stress is a culprit.

When the diagnosis is IBD, treatment focuses on controlling the inflammation that is causing the symptoms. Anti-inflammatory medications or immunosuppressant medications are often used. In severe cases, surgery may be needed.

Which One Do I Have?

To confirm your diagnosis, it is extremely important to visit your doctor. Your doctor will take note of your symptoms and perform certain tests and/or procedures in order to make the correct diagnosis. Keep a journal of your symptoms and bring it to your doctor to make sure you aren't leaving anything out. If you think certain foods are causing a problem, keep a food journal of the offending food and the symptoms created by eating that food and bring that along as well.

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