Overview

What Is Irritable Bowel Syndrome?

Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a common condition that causes irritation and ulcers in the intestinal tract. People with irritable bowel syndrome experience bloating, abdominal pain, gas, constipation and diarrhea.

Recent research indicates that IBS symptoms may be related to hyperactive nerves in the wall of the gastrointestinal tract. IBS may involve a problem with how the brain processes information received from these gut nerves. Many cases occur after a patient has had a bout of gastroenteritis, sometimes called the stomach flu.

IBS is a very common problem in the United States, affecting as much as 15 percent of the population. It’s twice as likely to impact women than men, and young people rather than old. IBS usually begins before the age of 40, and may even begin in children or young adults.

Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is sometimes confused with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), a much more serious gastrointestinal illness that includes Crohn disease and ulcerative colitis. Unlike Crohn disease and ulcerative colitis, IBS doesn’t cause changes in bowel tissue or increase your chances of developing colorectal cancer.

Related Resources

Downloads

Websites

Legal Information
*

By clicking on these websites, you are leaving the Northwestern Medicine website. These websites are independent resources. Northwestern Medicine does not operate or control the content of these websites. By visiting these websites, you agree to this third party’s terms of use for their website.