Irritable bowel syndrome with constipation (IBS-C) – Medical News Today

Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a chronic condition that can cause symptoms such as abdominal pain, bloating, and changes in bowel habits. People with IBS who experience constipation rather than diarrhea most of the time have a subtype of IBS known as IBS-C.
Constipation occurs when a person does not pass bowel movements often enough. Typically, this is fewer than three times per week.
In this article, we will discuss IBS-C in more detail, including its symptoms, causes, diagnosis, treatment, and symptom management.
IBS-C is one of three IBS subtypes. People with IBS-C mainly experience constipation.
Its opposite is IBS with diarrhea (IBS-D), which primarily causes frequent or loose bowel movements. People who have episodes of both constipation and diarrhea have “mixed” IBS, or IBS-M.
These subtypes can help people more accurately describe their IBS symptoms.
IBS-C is not the same as chronic functional constipation. People with IBS often have abdominal pain and cramping. By contrast, those with chronic constipation alone typically do not experience pain.
The main symptom of IBS-C is frequent bouts of constipation. This may result in:
The symptoms can be persistent, or they may come and go. Often, the symptoms temporarily improve after a person has a bowel movement.
Doctors are not sure what causes IBS-C, but there are factors that may contribute to it, including:
Many of these factors are interrelated and have a knock-on effect on each other. It may be that multiple factors play a role in the development of IBS.
There is no single test for IBS. Often, doctors diagnose it by ruling out other potential causes that can produce similar symptoms. Some tests a doctor may recommend include:
Doctors may also test for associated conditions, such as SIBO, or carry out tests to determine how well a person’s digestive system is functioning. For example, they may perform motility testing. Once a doctor rules out other causes, they will base a diagnosis on a person’s symptoms.
In 2015, Dr. Mark Pimentel, along with other scientists from Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, CA, developed a test that detects markers associated with IBS-D. However, while the test is promising, it is not widely available and may not work for IBS-C.
Medical treatment for IBS-C focuses on relieving constipation and improving a person’s quality of life. A number of medications could help with this, including:
If a person with IBS-C has another condition, such as SIBO, a motility disorder, or a mental health condition, they may find that treating these can have a positive effect on their IBS.
People can manage and sometimes even significantly improve their IBS-C symptoms by making changes to their diet or lifestyle. This could include:
It is of note that IBS is highly individual. What helps one person will not necessarily help another. It may be useful to try out different approaches one at a time to see what is effective.
A person should always discuss new diets, supplements, and major lifestyle changes with a doctor before trying them.
A person should speak with a healthcare professional if they are experiencing any persistent, recurring, or unexplained digestive symptoms.
While IBS is not life threatening, the symptoms can be similar to those of more serious conditions. A doctor can perform tests to rule these out.
People with IBS-C should also speak with a gastroenterologist if their symptoms change or worsen or if they are experiencing side effects as a result of a treatment they are trying.
A dietitian can help with making dietary changes for IBS in a safe and sustainable way.
IBS-C is a subtype of IBS that causes constipation as its main symptom. It can be uncomfortable and distressing to live with.
However, there are ways doctors can help ease the symptoms. There are also management strategies that can improve a person’s quality of life.
Finding the most suitable approach that helps with IBS can be difficult, so a person should seek support from a healthcare professional, where possible.
Last medically reviewed on June 21, 2021
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