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What’s The Difference Between Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) and Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD)

Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) and Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) are both chronic conditions that have very similar symptoms. Yet, they are in fact different, and, yes, it is possible for someone to have both at the same time. Here’s a quick breakdown of the two:

What Is IBD?

IBD is a chronic condition that affects parts of the digestive tract. It’s a term that encompasses several disorders of the digestive tract, but the two main conditions are Crohn’s and Ulcerative Colitis. IBD can cause sores or ulcers to develop within the bowel, or create inflammation within the layers of the digestive tract.

Symptoms of IBD often include diarrhea, a frequent need to move your bowels, stomach pain, and bloating (all of which are also symptoms of IBS). However, with IBD, patients also may notice things like vomiting, tiredness, weight loss, fever, or even bleeding.  It’s not certain what causes IBD disease, but most experts believe it is an abnormality in the immune system that can trigger the condition. IBD is also thought to be genetic and is more common in those with a family history of the disease.

What Is IBS?

IBS (also called “spastic colon”) carries similar symptoms to IBD – cue the diarrhea, frequent trips to the bathroom, and stomach pain.  They may also experience gassiness, bloating, or constipation. It’s not clear what causes IBS, but it’s thought that it can result due to a surplus of bacteria in the intestines. Stress can also play a part in IBS, especially when experienced at a young age.

Are The Treatments For IBD and IBS different?

The treatments for IBD and IBS are different so it pays to be examined for both so that you understand what is causing your symptoms and you can treat them appropriately. In some cases, the conditions can be treated with lifestyle changes, however other cases may require medications or antibiotics, or even surgery. Some people with IBS may find it easy to treat and eliminate symptoms. However many with IBS, and most with IBD will require ongoing treatment for their condition.

How Do You Know The Difference Between IBS And IBD?

Getting a proper diagnosis for either condition can take a long time, as so many of the symptoms experienced can also be symptoms of other common conditions. Testing for both conditions can be done with a physical exam, blood test, and usually a colonoscopy or other type of endoscopy procedure.

If you experience any symptoms related to IBS or IBD, make an appointment with a gastroenterologist (a doctor who specializes in the gastrointestinal (GI) tract and the liver) today to get tested.


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