Inflammatory bowel disease and irritable bowel syndrome are terms that are often use interchangeably by patients when they are, in fact, two different sets of conditions. As a gastroenterologist, you should educate patients about the differences between the two to avoid confusion when they are in your office for treatment.
Irritable Bowel Syndrome
Irritable bowel syndrome is a very common disorder of the intestines that can disrupt the everyday lives of patients. It causes excess gas, bloating, abdominal pain, diarrhea, and constipation. Since IBS does not damage the structure of the bowel tissue or cause inflammation or ulcers, it is considered a functional disorder and does not cause conditions like colorectal cancer.
The exact cause of IBS is unknown, but the sensitivity of the GI tract and psychological distress like anxiety and stress are suspected factors. Patients who live with IBS can find ways to manage the condition in their everyday lives. This includes:
- Identifying what triggers symptoms
- Reducing stress
- Eating a healthy diet
Inflammatory Bowel Disease
Inflammatory bowel disease is not one condition, but rather an umbrella term that includes conditions like:
Like IBS, inflammatory bowel disease has symptoms that include:
- Abdominal pain and cramping
Patients can also experience eye, joint, and skin problems with IBD. Unlike IBS, patients with IBD can develop complications like bowel obstruction, infections, and malnutrition if left untreated. Treatment of IBD depends on the diagnosis but usually includes anti-inflammatory medications and lifestyle and diet changes.
The cause of many IBDs like Crohn’s is unknown, but ulcerative colitis has numerous causes like infections and allergic reactions.
IBS & IBD Can Aggravate Hemorrhoids
Regardless of whether a patient suffers from IBS or IBD, both conditions can aggravate hemorrhoids in patients, leading to further discomfort. Aggravation typically occurs from some medications, aggressive wiping, sitting on the toilet for too long, and pressure on the veins and anus from constipation.
Thankfully, hemorrhoids are easily treatable with rubber band ligation and surgery if the hemorrhoid is severe enough.