IBS symptoms include abdominal pain and occasional diarrhea, often alternating with constipation, rapid transit of food with frequent bowel movements, a sense of fullness (bloating), abdominal tenderness and swelling, a lack of awareness of the bowel action (the need to "go"), and often headache and anxiety. The pain is usually felt in one of the four corners of the abdomen, especially the lower left corner. The stools are often ribbon-like or pellet-like and may contain mucus. They may also be large, dry stools which are hard to pass. Other symptoms may include burping and bad breath.
- Diarrhea-predominant IBS (IBS-D): Symptoms associated with IBS-D include more than three bowel movements per day, loose watery stools, and urgency.
- Pain-predominant IBS: Symptoms associated with pain-predominant IBS include abdominal pain, cramping or aching that is relieved by a bowel movement or flatulence (gas) and cramping or aching that is relieved by a bowel movement or gas.
- Bloating-predominant IBS: Symptoms associated with bloating-predominant IBS include feeling full or bloated and excessive gas.
- Predominant rectal dissatisfaction: Predominant rectal dissatisfaction is a feeling of incomplete evacuation of the colon contents.
- Constipation-predominant IBS (IBS-C): Symptoms associated with IBS-C include fewer than three bowel movements per week, lumpy hard stools, and straining during bowel movements.
- IBS with alternating bowel habit (IBS-A): Symptoms associated with IBS-A includes alternating episodes of diarrhea and constipation.
Although the signs and symptoms for IBS may disappear for long periods of time, for most people IBS is a chronic (long lasting) condition.
Red flag symptoms that are not typical of IBS include pain that awakens/interferes with sleep, uncontrollable defecation, diarrhea that awakens/interferes with sleep, blood in the stool (visible or occult), weight loss, fever, and abnormal physical examination.
People may experience symptoms from more than one of these categories, or their classification of IBS may change over time.
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