How is IBS diagnosed?
If you’ve been having uncomfortable GI symptoms, see your healthcare provider. The first step in diagnosing IBS is a medical history and a physical exam. Your provider will ask you about your symptoms:
- Do you have pain related to bowel movements?
- Do you notice a change in how often you have a bowel movement?
- Has there been a change in how your poop looks?
- How often do you have symptoms?
- When did your symptoms start?
- What medicines do you take?
- Have you been sick or had a stressful event in your life recently?
Depending on your symptoms, you may need other tests to confirm a diagnosis. Blood tests, stool samples and X-rays can help rule out other diseases that mimic IBS.
Will I need a colonoscopy?
Depending on your symptoms, medical history and other factors, your provider may recommend a flexible sigmoidoscopy or colonoscopy to examine your colon in more detail. These two outpatient procedures are similar. The difference is that a sigmoidoscopy examines just the lower half of the colon. A colonoscopy examines the entire colon.
- Insert a sigmoidoscope, a long, thin, flexible instrument, into the rectum.
- Advance the sigmoidoscope to the colon.
- View the lining of the rectum and lower part of the colon.
Here’s what you can expect during a colonoscopy. Your provider will:
- Insert the colonoscope through the rectum.
- Advance the scope and examine the entire colon.
- Remove small amounts of tissue for a biopsy (if necessary).
- Identify and remove small growths called polyps (if necessary).
Often, providers can make an accurate diagnosis and even deliver treatment using a colonoscopy. A colonoscopy is a much less invasive procedure compared to an abdominal operation.
Do I need to see a gastroenterologist?
If you have IBS symptoms, first talk to your primary care physician or regular healthcare provider. Your provider may refer you to a gastroenterologist.
A gastroenterologist is a doctor who specializes in diagnosing and treating diseases of the digestive system, including:
- Colorectal (colon) cancer.
- Liver disease.
- Swallowing and esophageal disorders.
- Pancreas disorders.