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What Are the Criteria for Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)?

Man with Abdominal Pain

Because it is so difficult to definitively diagnose Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), diagnosis is often a process of elimination. Researchers have developed diagnostic criteria for IBS and other gastrointestinal disorders. According to these criteria, you must have certain signs and symptoms before you can be diagnosed with the condition.

The key symptom is:

  • Abdominal pain and discomfort lasting at least 12 weeks (the weeks don't have to occur consecutively)

You also must have at least two of the following:

  • A change in the frequency or consistency of your stool (often resulting in diarrhea or constipation)
  • Bloating
  • Feelings of urgency (the need to find a restroom fast)
  • Mucus in your stool

If you fit the IBS criteria and don't have any additional red flag signs or symptoms, your doctor may suggest a course of treatment without doing more tests. However, if you don't respond to treatment, you will likely require more tests.

Testing for IBS

  • Colonoscopy: A doctor will use a colonoscope — a thin, flexible tube with a digital video camera — to send images of the intestinal lining to a computer screen. This test could show potential problems that may be causing IBS. Bowel preparations are needed for this type of test. Learn more about colonoscopy at Drexel Gastroenterology.
  • Stool Test: A stool sample is sent to a lab to check for blood or parasites that may be causing symptoms.
  • Flexible sigmoidoscopy: This test is used to look inside the rectum and lower colon and can detect inflamed tissue. Bowel preparations are also needed for this type of test.

Drexel Gastroenterology

Drexel Gastroenterology expertly treats patients with digestive health disorders. Our regionally and nationally recognized experts work with your primary care physician to ensure the highest standard of care. Our patients have access to Drexel Medicine's Center for Digestive Health, which has been recognized for quality and safety by the American Society for Gastrointestinal Endoscopy (ASGE) and provides outpatient colonoscopies in a comfortable setting.

The information on these pages is provided for general information only and should not be used for diagnosis or treatment, or as a substitute for consultation with a physician or health care professional. If you have specific questions or concerns about your health, you should consult your health care professional.

The images being used are for illustrative purposes only; any person depicted is a model.

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