ZocdocAnswersCan you be tested for irritable bowel syndrome?

Question

Can you be tested for irritable bowel syndrome?

Had stomach problems for like a year and my doctor says she can?t figure it out and that it might be irritable bowel syndrome. Is this just a catch-all diagnosis? Can I be tested for IBS?

Answer

Irritable bowel syndrome is a condition characterized by periodic abdominal pain and cramping, often associated with either diarrhea or constipation or both, that is worsened in times of stress and fatigue. There are no tests for diagnosing irritable bowel syndrome. It is not a catch all diagnosis, but it is what we call a diagnosis of exclusion. This means that there are many other more serious causes for chronic abdominal pain, such as infections, inflammatory bowel disease, and celiac disease. There are specific tests for all of these conditions. Once these serious conditions are ruled out either by specific testing or because the pattern of pain and other symptoms does not fit well with them, then your doctor will consider a diagnosis of irritable bowel syndrome. Although there are not tests for irritable bowel syndrome, the pattern of pain tends to be quite typical. Similarly, there are several simple treatments which tend to be effective, including modifications in fluid and fiber intake as well as other dietary changes, and stress reducing techniques. In cases where these simple methods do not work, there are also medications that are occasionally used. I recommend going back to see your doctor, who will be able to recommend treatments for IBS.

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