Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a chronic intestinal disorder that causes abdominal pain, cramping, gas, and bloating, in addition to bouts of diarrhea or constipation. IBS does not cause inflammation or permanent harm, nor does it progress to more serious conditions. Past names for this disorder include colitis, mucous colitis, spastic colon, spastic bowel, and functional bowel disease.
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The exact cause of IBS is not known. There may be several causes, and IBS may itself be a collection of different conditions, each having a different cause. IBS is placed in a class of diseases known as "functional disorders," a term that means no structural, biochemical, or infectious cause has yet been found.
Possible triggers for IBS include:
IBS is a common condition affecting 10%-20% of American adults.
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Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed. Updated September 1, 2015. Accessed December 18, 2015.
Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). Merck Manual Professional Version website. Available at: http://www.merckmanuals.com/professional/gastrointestinal-disorders/irritable-bowel-syndrome--(ibs)/irritable-bowel-syndrome--(ibs). Updated July 2013. Accessed December 18, 2015.
Last reviewed December 2015 by Daus Mahnke, MD Last Updated: 12/20/2014