Do you really have IBS?
Irritable bowel syndrome can often be mistaken for other conditions such as colitis, and because of this it is vital to receive a reliable diagnosis.
Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a fairly well-known disorder these days Ė medications for IBS are advertised on TV and in the media, and thankfully it is now far less of a taboo to talk about your bowels.
However, this new awareness sometimes means that patients decide they have IBS without seeing a doctor. In fact it is impossible to self-diagnose IBS, because there are far two many medical conditions which can produce symptoms of diarrhea, constipation and abdominal pain.
Because of this fact it is vital to get your symptoms thoroughly checked out by a doctor, especially if they are continuing for a long period of time or are interfering with your work or social life.
Even when patients do see a doctor, however, a significant number donít receive the correct diagnosis until their second or third visit, or until they see a gut specialist. It is vital to find a doctor who is willing to take the time to investigate any symptoms that donít fit with the IBS diagnosis, and who can ensure that you donít have one of the many medical conditions which can produce bowel and stomach problems.
For example, if you are a woman you could have endometriosis, a condition where tissue which usually lines the ovaries is found in other parts of the body. If the tissue attaches to the bowel then abdominal pain can be the result.
Just this week I received an email from a women who was told she had IBS, and then the doctors changed their minds after a laparoscopy to look for endometriosis.
It could be ulcerative colitis or Crohnís disease, two inflammatory bowel disorders which can cause similar symptoms to IBS but need different treatments.
If you have celiac disease you will be suffering because you are eating the gluten in bread, cakes and pasta (among other foods), and all you need to do to feel better will be to cut out gluten from your diet.
You may have picked up an intestinal parasite such as giardia from foreign travel, or you could have fibromyalgia, a condition that can cause bowel symptoms but can also cause problems such as Ďbrain fogí and muscle pain.
If you find that your symptoms are worse after drinking milk you may have lactose intolerance. And, of course, in a small number of cases it could be bowel cancer.
If your doctor has already diagnosed you with IBS, and you are happy with that diagnosis, then you can concentrate on relieving your IBS symptoms and not worry about these other conditions.
But if you have never been properly diagnosed, now is the time to go to your doctor and explain your symptoms clearly, because you will only receive the help you need if you know exactly what is wrong with your body.
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Sophie Lee has had IBS for 15 years. She runs the website IBS Treatment http://www.irritable-bowel-syndrome.ws where you can find reviews of all the different treatments available for IBS.