Irritable bowel syndrome typically affects women more than it does men and it typically affects younger individuals more than older individuals. However, anyone really can develop irritable bowel syndrome.
Irritable bowel syndrome is a very common condition. It is a syndrome, so it consists of a constellation of symptoms: abdominal pain or discomfort, the change in bowel habits (so either diarrhea or constipation or alternating between the two) and typically patients have improvement in their pain or discomfort after a bowel movement. Other typical symptoms that we see a lot in patients with IBS are bloating and discomfort.
Irritable bowel syndrome can come in many different types: we have IBS-D (or diarrhea predominant irritable bowel syndrome) IBS-C (which is constipation predominant irritable bowel syndrome), and we have the mixed type, where patients alternate back and forth equally.
IBS is a very common condition. In fact, I read somewhere that it is the most common cause of missed work due to a chronic condition in the United States. If you're in a room with a number of people, it's very likely that you're not the only one with irritable bowel syndrome.
One of the mainstays of preventing irritable bowel syndrome is preventing gastroenteritis. So good hand hygiene and watching what you're eating is very important. There have been some studies that show that early antibiotic use in gastroenteritis and traveler's diarrhea has been associated with decreased risk of post infectious irritable bowel syndrome. There is a lot of research being done right now looking at early interventions to prevent irritable bowel syndrome. However, a specific medication or drug has not been identified. Physical activity, a balanced diet, and management of underlying psychiatric conditions and stress are very, very important.
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