Irritable Bowel Syndrome Home > Diagnosing Irritable Bowel Syndrome

It can be difficult to diagnose irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), as this digestive condition does not cause obvious physical changes. However, a healthcare provider can rule out other conditions, such as celiac disease, ulcerative colitis, or Crohn's disease, that may cause similar symptoms. Certain tests, such as x-rays, blood tests, and a colonoscopy, can also help to determine if your symptoms fit the criteria of IBS.

Diagnosis of Irritable Bowel Syndrome: An Overview

Because irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) causes no obvious physical changes in the digestive tract, the process of diagnosing this digestive condition requires two steps. The first step is to see if a person's symptoms fit the criteria of IBS. The second is to rule out conditions that can cause similar symptoms.

Criteria for Diagnosing IBS

Healthcare providers often use the Rome diagnostic criteria for identifying IBS. For these criteria, a person must have abdominal (stomach) pain or discomfort (an uncomfortable sensation) at least three times per month for the past three months, accompanied by two or more of the following:
  • The pain is relieved by having a bowel movement
  • The onset of pain is associated with a change in the frequency of stools
  • The onset of pain is associated with a change in stool consistency (i.e., diarrhea or constipation).

Ruling Out Other Conditions

Once a healthcare provider suspects irritable bowel syndrome, the next step is to make sure that another condition is not causing a person's symptoms. Some conditions that share similar symptoms with IBS include:
Certain medications may also cause symptoms similar to those seen in people with irritable bowel syndrome.
To help rule out some of these conditions, your healthcare provider may recommend one or more of the following tests:
The results of these tests, as well as your response to treatment, can help your healthcare provider in diagnosing IBS.
Written by/reviewed by:
Last reviewed by: Arthur Schoenstadt, MD
Last updated/reviewed:
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