• 11 November 2020

How to tell between IBD (inflammatory bowel disease) and IBS (irritable bowel syndrome)

Sufferers of IBD (inflammatory bowel disease, such as Crohn’s and Ulcerative Colitis) and IBS (irritable bowel syndrome) may have many similar symptoms, so it can be hard to tell what might be causing your gastrointestinal issues.

Symptoms that suggest you have IBS

  • Bloating
  • Long duration of symptoms (more than 6 months)
  • Alternating bowel habit – constipation one day, diarrhoea the next!
  • Crampy pain that improves after passage of wind/use of bowels

Symptoms that suggest the possibility of IBD

  • Blood in bowel motion
  • Crampy pain not relieved by use of bowels
  • Unintentional weight loss
  • Persistent or recurrent temperature
  • Awaking at night due to diarrhoea

What do I do next?

If you suffer from any of the above symptoms, the first place to visit is your GP. They can help make the diagnosis for you and help manage an irritable bowel. They may suggest blood tests such as coeliac serology, a blood count and a faecal calprotectin.

If you have symptoms that suggest you might have an inflamed bowel, seeing a gastroenterologist for further investigation should be the next step. You can request an IBD SA gastroenterologist from your GP when getting a referral, and then make an appointment to see us.


Contributed by Associate Professor Peter Bampton

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