Embarrassment, Fatigue, Pain
Ibs, or IBS, can severely impact every aspect of a patient’s life. IBS can also complicate other chronic health conditions such as clinical depression, hemorrhoids and generalized anxiety disorder. IBS taps into the fears children have about the inability to control their bowels. This insufficient control and pain may evoke feelings of low self-esteem in a sufferer. Sometimes very damaging attempts to self-medicate are created because the patient might be too ashamed or too embarrassed to go to a doctor.
Adding to the problem is that IBS is really a mysterious condition, often serving as a catch-all phrase for a lot of kinds of chronic digestive problems such as spastic colon and colitis. The world-renowned Mayo Clinic notes that we now have no diagnostic tests for IBS, so a doctor might have to run tests to be able to eliminate worse problems such as cancer before making a diagnosis. The signs of IBS are also much like Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis, so there’s a chance of misdiagnosis. The misconception that IBS doesn’t exist which patients are only exaggerating their symptoms still persists in society.
The signs of IBS
Another factor making IBS hard to diagnose is that each person experiences their own group of symptoms. The most common symptoms include severe abdominal pain, rectal bleeding, diarrhea, excessive flatulence, mucus-coated stools, hemorrhoids or perhaps a insufficient bowel control. Pain is eased after a bowel movement. The Mayo Clinic reports that less frequent symptoms include fever, nausea, vomiting and sudden weight loss. The National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK) reports that patients with IBS often cycle between periods of diarrhea and constipation and rarely possess a normal bowel movement.
For a doctor to identify IBS, the patient must have exhibited symptoms for at least 12 weeks in the past 12 months. Although a lot of patients wait until conditions are severe before visiting a doctor, many patients might not be able to get the IBS diagnosis since they’re in the early stages from the condition. The Mayo Clinic also recommends a colonoscopy for all patients with IBS symptoms to rule out colon cancer. Colonoscopy preparation involves completely clearing the bowels via a lengthy period of a liquid diet which may exacerbate IBS symptoms.
The Mayo Clinic reports that over 50% of IBS patients are women. It’s not known why women are more prone to IBS than men. The typical IBS patient is not only female, but includes a relative with IBS and is under 35 years of age. Again, it is unknown why young women tend to be more vunerable to IBS than older women. There are some theories that younger women might be susceptible to greater stress than older women or that older women might have learned greater stress management techniques than their younger counterparts. It is also unknown simply how much of the role genetics plays in developing IBS.
Another theory is the fact that hormones such as estrogen and progesterone may play a sizable role in IBS. The NIDDK reports that ladies with IBS usually have attacks just before or during their periods. But this does not explain why men are identified as having IBS. Both women and men report IBS attacks when they’re under severe stress. Perhaps the female sex hormones weaken a woman’s digestive system when she menstruates. The NIDDK notes that lots of IBS patients of both sexes in addition have a depressive illness or an anxiety disorder. There is still much that needs to be learned about why women are afflicted by IBS more than men. But one thing is apparent – IBS is treatable inside a most of cases.
Treatment for IBS involves dietary changes and learning how you can manage stress. IBS patients have more frequent attacks when they consume large meals, so IBS patients are encouraged to eat small, frequent meals every day instead of 2 or 3 large meals. The Mayo Clinic notes that a majority of IBS patients regularly are afflicted after consuming certain foods. The IBS patient is asked to keep a food journal of food and beverages consumed to determine which foods trigger attacks, and thus avoid or drastically reduce such foods or beverages.
Prescription medications are also accustomed to help ease IBS symptoms but are by no means considered a cure. Some drugs for example laxatives are just to be used short-term since the body becomes reliant upon laxatives to push the stool with the colon to become eliminated through the rectum. When the body becomes dependent upon laxatives, this enzymatic muscles aren’t used and they atrophy. Other medications for example muscle-relaxants could cause bladder incontinence or excessive flatulence. The Mayo Clinic reports that anti-depressants and antibiotics are prescribed off-label for IBS.
The Dangers of Self-Medication
Many patients with IBS postpone visits to the doctor for treatment. It is unknown how many try to self-medicate, but IBS symptoms may cause sufficient anxiety that the patient will quite literally try anything in order to gain relief from their symptoms. Medications can include over the counter laxatives or alcohol based drinks. The alcohol acts as both a painkiller and a muscle relaxant. But long term use not just results in addiction but additionally a worsening of symptoms. When the patient also has an illness such as depression, then alcohol will act to worsen symptoms or counteract antidepressant or anti-anxiety medications.
Ibs isn’t something to be ashamed of or embarrassed about. Treatment and advice should be sought as soon as the illness comes up. Patients can be helped to learn to reside with IBS and also to reduce the impact that the illness is wearing their daily lives.
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