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How is Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) Diagnosed?

Diagnosing irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) involves initial evaluation, classification based on symptoms, and assessment of red flag symptoms. Additional tests may be necessary to confirm IBS and rule out other conditions.

  • 12 Feb 2024
  • 2 min read

Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) is a digestive issue that can cause belly pain and discomfort. It might make us feel constipated or have diarrhoea. Sometimes, it can lead to bloating or gas. IBS doesn't damage your stomach, but it can be quite bothersome and impact our daily lives. People dealing with IBS often need to handle their diet and stress to feel better because there's no cure for it. Getting the correct diagnosis is crucial to properly handle and manage the symptoms of IBS.

Diagnosis of Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS):

Initial Evaluation:

  • Doctors begin by asking about your health history. They ask about your symptoms, how often they occur, and their impact on your life.
  • A thorough physical examination is conducted to check for signs that might suggest other digestive issues. This step helps rule out conditions that mimic IBS, such as inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) or celiac disease.

Rome Criteria:

Healthcare professionals refer to specific guidelines called the Rome criteria to identify IBS. These criteria focus on symptoms like belly pain or discomfort occurring at least one day a week in the last three months. They also consider associated changes in bowel movements, like altered frequency or consistency.

Classification of IBS:

IBS is categorised into four types based on predominant symptoms:

  • Constipation-predominant: Characterized by infrequent bowel movements or difficulty passing stools.
  • Diarrhoea-predominant: Involves frequent, loose stools.
  • Mixed: Features both constipation and diarrhoea.
  • Unclassified: Symptoms don't fit precisely into the other categories.

Assessment of Red Flag Symptoms:

Healthcare providers evaluate specific symptoms that might indicate other severe conditions, such as:

  • Onset of symptoms after age 50
  • Unintended weight loss
  • Rectal bleeding
  • Fever
  • Nausea or recurrent vomiting
  • Belly pain unrelated to bowel movements or occurring at night
  • Ongoing or sleep-disrupting diarrhoea
  • Anaemia due to low iron levels

Additional Tests if Necessary:

If red flag symptoms emerge or initial treatments aren't effective, further tests may be recommended to confirm IBS and rule out other conditions:

  • Colonoscopy: A flexible tube examines the entire colon to detect abnormalities or signs of other diseases.
  • CT Scan: Imaging the abdomen and pelvis to explore potential causes of persistent belly pain.
  • Upper Endoscopy: A tube is inserted into the upper digestive tract to check for abnormalities, especially if celiac disease is suspected.


Laboratory Tests:

Various laboratory examinations might be advised:

  • Lactose Intolerance Tests: Assessing your body's digestibility of dairy products.
  • Breath Test for Bacterial Overgrowth: Identifying bacterial overgrowth in the small intestine.
  • Stool Tests: Checking for bacteria, parasites, or bile acid in the stool to understand digestive health.

Also read:


In conclusion, diagnosing Irritable Bowel Syndrome involves a comprehensive approach, considering symptoms, medical history, physical examinations, and a series of tests to exclude other conditions. It's essential to communicate openly with healthcare providers, understand the diagnostic process, and check health insurance coverage to manage the expenses of confirming an IBS diagnosis.

The diagnosis of IBS often involves multiple appointments, tests, and consultations, which can incur expenses. Health insurance coverage varies, and some policies may cover specific tests or consultations related to IBS diagnosis. It's crucial to check your insurance coverage beforehand to understand what tests and consultations are included.

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