Research has shown that individuals suffering from Irritable Bowel Syndrome and Fibromyalgia both respond to pain differently than other individuals. However, IBS patients have an altered response to abdominal pain, while FMS patients have an altered response to muscle pain. Not surprisingly, further studies have shown that people with both conditions have an altered response to both types of pain.
Irritable bowel syndrome is a disorder most commonly characterized by cramping, abdominal pain, bloating, constipation and diarrhea. IBS causes a great deal of discomfort and stress, but it does not permanently harm the intestines, and does not lead to a serious disease, such as cancer. Most people can control their symptoms with diet, stress management and alternative medications. For some people, however, IBS can be disabling. They may be unable to work, attend social events or even travel short distances.
As much as 20% of the adult population, or one in five Americans, has symptoms of IBS, making it one of the most common disorders diagnosed by physicians. It occurs more often in women than in men, and it begins before the age of 35 in about 50% of the cases.
What are the symptoms of IBS?
Abdominal pain, bloating, and discomfort are the main symptoms of IBS. However, symptoms can vary from person to person. Some people have constipation, which means hard, difficult-to-pass, or infrequent bowel movements. Often these people report straining and cramping when trying to have a bowel movement but cannot eliminate any stool, or they are able to eliminate only a small amount. If they are able to have a bowel movement, there may be mucus in it, which is a fluid that moistens and protects passages in the digestive system. Some people with IBS experience diarrhea which is frequent, loose and watery. People with diarrhea frequently feel an urgent and uncontrollable need to have a bowel movement. Other people with IBS alternate between constipation and diarrhea. Some patients find that their symptoms subside for a few months, and then return, while others report a constant increase of symptoms over time.
In the next section we discuss the Causes and Diagnosis of Irritable Bowel Syndrome.