Irritable Bowel Syndrome Home > Irritable Bowel Syndrome

If you have abdominal (stomach) pain and changes in bowel habits, you may have a common digestive condition called irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). It can affect people of all ages, but women are usually affected more than men. Because IBS is a chronic condition, there is no cure. However, it is not life-threatening and doesn't typically lead to serious problems. Treatment may include dietary changes, stress reduction, and medications.

What Is Irritable Bowel Syndrome?

Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a chronic digestive condition that interferes with the normal functions of the colon. It is characterized by a group of symptoms, namely crampy abdominal (stomach) pain, bloating, constipation, and diarrhea.
IBS affects up to 20 percent of the population, making it one of the most common conditions diagnosed by healthcare providers. It is also the second most common reason that people miss work (behind the common cold).
Irritable bowel syndrome affects people of all ages -- even children (see Irritable Bowel Syndrome in Children). Women are usually affected two to three times more often than men. Symptoms often appear around age 20.

Causes of IBS

The exact cause of irritable bowel syndrome is not known. Scientists continue to study genetics, the environment, and the immune system looking for answers.
(Click Irritable Bowel Syndrome Causes to learn what researchers do know about this condition.)
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Last reviewed by: Arthur Schoenstadt, MD
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