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What are the symptoms of IBS?

The main symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) are:

  • Abdominal pain, discomfort, or cramping
  • Feeling bloated or passing excess wind (flatulence)
  • Constipation
  • Diarrhoea

In addition, people with IBS may:

  • Pass mucus from the bowels
  • Need to get to the bathroom urgently
  • Feel like they have not emptied their bowels properly

Other symptoms include:

  • Heartburn (acid indigestion or acid reflux)
  • Difficulty swallowing or feeling like there is a lump in the throat
  • Feeling sick or nauseous (with or without vomiting)
  • Chest pain
  • Tiredness or fatigue
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Depression

Not everyone will have the same symptoms, or indeed suffer from them to the same degree. Some people may experience constipation, for example, while others may have diarrhoea or alternate between these two symptoms. Women may also find that their symptoms get worse when they have their period. The symptoms experienced can also change with time, becoming more or less frequent.

For some people having IBS can be more of an annoyance than a life-limiting illness. However, IBS can be very debilitating for many and can significantly interfere with their ability or confidence to carry out normal daily tasks. The treatment of IBS is therefore focused on alleviating symptoms as much as possible. The aim of treatment is thus to minimize the extent to which symptoms impinge on everyday life.

If you are worried about any symptoms that you may be experiencing, or are unsure if you have IBS, please talk to your doctor or pharmacist.