Irritable Bowel Syndrome

The Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) is a functional bowel disorder that is one of the main symptoms encountered in general practice.

30% of all people have (occasionally) disorders which could be diagnosed as IBS with females being affected about 2-3 times more often than males. Most people do not feel constricted or sick by these symptoms and therefore do not consult a medical practitioner. About 25% of the people with IBS symptoms turn to a doctor because they fear an illness. In only 1% of the people with these symptoms the constrictions by the medical conditions are so severe that they are in need of permanent medical treatment. The risk to fall ill from an inflammatory or malignant disease of the stomach or the intestines is not increased by IBS.

IBS is defined by the occurence of certain symptoms for which no organic cause can be found. These syptoms include abdominal pain in conjunction with bowel movement irregularities or disorders in fecal evacuation and / or flatulence. Intensive research on possible organic causes of IBS is done currently.

The diagnose should only be confirmed by a trained internist. It is absolutely necessary to rule out diseases that show similar symptoms with underlying specific organic causes. Besides examinations of blood and stool samples the diagnostics include ultrasonic examinations of the abdomen and an endoscopy of the stomach and / or of the colon. To exclude lactose intolerance a breath test can be performed.

IBS symptoms can persist lifelong. They can change in their intensity from time to time. However, the course of the illness can be different for each patient.

Tratment of IBS depends on the respective sort and intensity of the symptoms. The aim is the relief of the main symptoms by a symptom oriented drug therapy. Currently, the peripheral serotonergic system is a favoured target because serotonin plays a major rolein the intialisation of peristalsis. The treatment of obstipation- or diarhea-predominant IBS through a specific interaction with different serotonin receptors seems to be promising.