IBS and IBD are both conditions that affect the gastrointestinal tract. Many people confuse the names, but while they do have some small similarities, the two conditions are very different. Having a better understanding of the symptoms of each can help you gain a stronger grasp of why you are experiencing GI symptoms and how you can best treat them.
The Basics of IBS and IBD
Irritable bowel syndrome, or IBS, is a term for a collection of different symptoms, including abdominal pain, bloating, and changes in bowel habits including both constipation and diarrhea (or alternating between the two). Inflammatory bowel disease, or IBD, is an umbrella term for Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis and is more closely related to inflammation of the intestines. Both are chronic conditions that tend to come and go over time, with some bouts being more severe than others. The periods when symptoms are the worst are called flare-ups. Because they both affect your intestines and bowel movements, they can have adverse effects on the quality of your life.
Key Differences Between IBS and IBD
The two have many of the same symptoms, including abdominal pain, bloating, and changes in bowel habits, but patients with IBD may also experience weight loss, fever, rectal bleeding and other symptoms. It can be difficult to distinguish between the two because the symptoms alone often don’t provide an evaluative answer.
Both IBS and IBD are common conditions that many people suffer from. IBS is more prevalent in females, but IBD is found equally in both genders.
Causes of IBS and IBD
IBD is classified as an autoimmune disorder. This means that the immune system is targeting the intestines, which can lead to abdominal pain, diarrhea and occasional bleeding among other symptoms. If you have a family member who has suffered from IBD, you have an increased risk of eventually being diagnosed with IBD. We don’t know the causes that make the intestines susceptible to this disorder, but IBD is gaining prevalence and is very common in Europe and North America.
IBS, on the other hand is thought to be caused by increased sensitivity of the nerves in the intestines. These nerves send messages to the brain that translate this message into pain in your abdominal area and often bloating and other symptoms. Stress is one main factor that has been pinpointed as a trigger of IBS. In general, IBS seems to be more related to diet and lifestyle than IBD.
How Are IBS and IBD Diagnosed?
It often takes multiple tests to properly diagnose IBD. It can sometimes be diagnosed with a colonoscopy, which uses a flexible tube inserted into the rectum to look at the lining of the colon for signs of Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis. Biopsies, CT scans, and MRIs can also be used to help make a diagnosis; small bowel x-rays or upper endoscopies can be helpful as well.
For IBS, it’s more of a diagnosis that takes place by process of elimination. If you are having abdominal pain, a colonoscopy can rule out other problems. Additional tests can rule out celiac disease and other issues that mimic the symptoms for IBS. Once other conditions have been ruled out, it’s easier to move forward with treatment for IBS.
Treatment for IBS vs. IBD
Treatment for IBS generally involves dietary changes, such as high-fiber diets that help soften the stool. Over-the-counter laxatives and prescription medications can also be helpful. A physician can look at your diet to see if there are certain food triggers that your body finds harder to digest or break down; eliminating these foods can alleviate symptoms. Introducing exercise and other stress-relieving activities into your lifestyle can be beneficial; some patients respond well to antidepressants, which lower stress levels as well.
Treatment for IBD is notably different because it’s a chronic disease. For IBD, it’s important to intervene earlier with medication that targets the immune system’s response to the intestine. These can be drugs that are in pill form or other injectable or infusion options and will help to avoid having to undergo surgery down the road. It’s especially important to avoid dietary triggers as well as over-the-counter drugs like ibuprofen and naproxen that can aggravate your condition.
IBS and IBD both cause uncomfortable digestive issues that can interfere with your quality of life. Make an appointment with us today to help you properly diagnose your symptoms and get your life back on track.