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"How does a doctor diagnose irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)?"

ZocdocAnswersHow does a doctor diagnose irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)?


I was reading the symptoms of IBS online and it sounds like I could have it. Then again, it could just be an upset stomach or my diet. How does a doctor diagnose IBS?


Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a condition in which the normal function of the bowel produces discomfort and pain in the abdomen. There are no tests we have that can be used to diagnose IBS. Therefore, it is usually diagnosed when the symptoms make the doctor suspicious, and no other possible cause can be found. In other words, IBS is diagnosed when tests for other illnesses come back negative. We have a set of diagnostic criteria we use to diagnose IBS, but it is not all that useful for the purposes of this question. In general, we look for symptoms such as abdominal pain relieved by defecation, intermittent diarrhea and constipation, and symptoms that are exacerbated by changes in mood. I suggest that you schedule an appointment to see your primary care physician. He or she will take a detailed history of your symptoms and perform a thorough physical exam. Depending on what is found, and the severity of your symptoms, more testing will likely be warranted. In some cases, the primary care physician will refer the patient to a gastrointestinal specialist to complete the testing. Only after other causes of your upset stomach are ruled out, can you be officially diagnosed with IBS. From there, you and your doctor can discuss the best treatment for your situation.

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