Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) and Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) are two common disorders of the digestive system. These disorders affect as many as 5 million Canadians, with approximately 120,000 individuals in Canada being diagnosed with IBS every year. In fact, Canada has one of the highest rates of IBS diagnoses in the world today. While the symptoms of IBS and IBD are very similar, it is important to understand that the two are not the same condition and they have contrasting treatment regimens.
Unlike IBD, IBS is considered to be the lesser evil of the two. Perhaps the biggest difference between the two is the fact that while IBD is an indicator for other gastro-related illnesses and causes the intestines to become inflamed, IBS does not. IBS can, however, cause profuse discomfort and anguish, with symptoms such as persistent abdominal pain, diarrhea and constipation – oftentimes alternating. These symptoms can range from being mild to severe, and they can disturb one’s self-image, ability to work, and overall quality of life. Individuals with IBS generally do not show any signs of any severe disease when examined, so a diagnosis is almost always dependent on the symptoms presented by the patient to their physician. Common complaints and symptoms of IBS that Dr. Ali Ghahary sees in patients include bloating, gassiness, nausea, and the inability to move the bowels despite urgency. IBS can be caused by certain medications, dietary changes, hormonal changes and stress. Treatment includes antidiarrheal medications, fiber supplements, and stress relief.
IBD, on the other hand, affects 1 in every 150 Canadians, and can be a direct cause of severe gastrointestinal diseases known as Ulcerative Colitis and Crohn’s Disease – both of which are accompanied by inflammation of the bowel. Symptoms of IBD include weight loss, chronic diarrhea, abdominal pain and bloating. In severe cases, low-grade fevers and bloody stools may also be present. These are red flags that should not be ignored. IBD is diagnosed with blood tests, stool tests, CT scans or endoscopes, and is commonly treated with several types of medications: Aminosalicylates (to help control inflammation), Antibiotics (to help those who may develop an infection known as C. Difficile), Corticosteroids (to treat sudden onset of IBD-related flare-ups), Immunomodulators (to quiet the immune system and reduce inflammation), and biologic therapies (to block proteins that may produce inflammation.)