Irritable Bowel Syndrome Signs, Symptoms and Treatment

Irritable bowel syndrome is very common, yet many patients deal with the uncomfortable symptoms for years before being diagnosed and treated. CU Medicine provider Kristy Severson, CNP discusses the signs and symptoms of the condition and how it’s treated.

Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) is a common gastrointestinal (GI) condition that affects roughly 10%-15% people globally. Patients with IBS experience a variety of symptoms such as bloating, abdominal pain, cramping, alternating constipation and diarrhea as well as changes in overall bowel movement.

While the symptoms associated with IBS can be quite disruptive and worrying, CU Medicine provider Kristy Severson, CNP from CU Medicine Gastroenterology – Highlands Ranch Specialty Care Center wants people to know relief is close. “It can cause a lot of anxiety and fear for people,” explains Severson. IBS can be difficult to diagnose. This is because the symptoms of IBS are similar to those of other gastrointestinal conditions that can be more serious. “Many patients with IBS come to us thinking they have something scary like cancer. I always like to communicate to the patient that this condition is safe and treatable.”

Many people suffer from IBS for years before receiving a diagnosis and effective treatment. Severson walks us through what we need to know about IBS. 


Who gets irritable bowel syndrome?

Irritable bowel syndrome can affect anyone. The following risk factors have been linked to irritable bowel syndrome:

  • Have anxiety, depression or other psychological disorders
  • Females under 50
  • Have a family history of irritable bowel syndrome

What causes irritable bowel syndrome?

Gut motility problems – when the muscles in the digestive track either move too fast or too slow for proper digestion

Nerve sensitivity - sensitive nerves in the digestive track

Stress and mental health disorders – the gut-brain connection can be disrupted by stress, anxiety, depression and other mental health disorders

Irritable bowel syndrome signs and symptoms

There are many symptoms associated with irritable bowel syndrome. Patients can suffer from just one or many of the following:

  • Abdominal cramping and bloating
  • Constipation
  • Diarrhea
  • Belching
  • Weight loss
  • Vomiting
  • Heartburn

Irritable bowel syndrome treatment

Irritable bowel syndrome is treated in a variety of ways. The following are the most common:

  • Diet modifications
  • Therapy
  • Medications

Trauma, anxiety and depression link

There is a strong link between psychological disorders like anxiety and depression and irritable bowel syndrome. The full connection is not known but managing stress and treating mental health disorders can help with the condition. Medications like tricyclic antidepressants are often prescribed for irritable bowel syndrome with great success. Other viable treatments include therapy and stress management.

Living with IBS can be challenging, but patients don’t have to do it on their own. “Although patients don’t feel good, we can treat IBS and help patients feel better,” stresses Severson. CU Medicine Gastroenterology – Highlands Ranch Specialty Care Center is accepting new patients and here to treat a variety of GI conditions.



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