IBD vs IBS: What's the Difference?

Jennifer Rackley Health Pro
  • Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) and Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) have similar acronyms and sometimes even overlapping symptoms.  This can make it very confusing for patients and doctors trying to get an accurate diagnosis.  Often times patients with IBD are misdiagnosed with IBS before more extensive testing proves otherwise.

    Irritable Bowel Syndrome or IBS is a condition in which abdominal pain, bloating, discomfort, constipation or diarrhea cause significant problems for the patient.  In order to be diagnosed with IBS the pain must have lasted 12 weeks out of the last 12 months.  While there is no definitive diagnostic test for IBS your doctor may require testing to rule out other GI diseases.  While IBS is painful and debilitating for many patients it does not cause permanent damage to the intestinal tract nor increase the risk for other diseases like cancer.

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    Inflammatory Bowel Disease or IBD is an entirely different disease, even though the symptoms can overlap with IBS.  IBD is made up of two diseases, Crohn's and Ulcerative Colitis, which cause inflammation and ulcers in the GI tract.  Some research has also noted an increase for certain cancers in people with IBD.  While IBD can cause abdominal pain, bloating, discomfort, constipation or diarrhea like IBS it can also cause bleeding which is not a symptom of IBS.

    If you have GI bleeding or other symptoms of inflammation and your symptoms do not subside with standard IBS treatments it might be time to get tested for IBD.  Each disease has a different treatment plan so it is important to get the diagnosis right.  Your doctor may do blood tests or endoscopic procedures to obtain an accurate diagnosis.

Published On: October 18, 2010