Irritable bowel syndrome


A condition that causes abdominal pain and a change in the way the bowel works

Enquiries & Appointments

Bowel cancer diagnosis Dr Ray Shidrawi in Endoscopy 868697166.jpg

About Irritable Bowel Syndrome

IBS is a disorder of the way the muscles and nerves in the gut work. It is called a ‘functional gut disorder’ because it is a problem with gut function rather than the structure of the bowel. The condition affects up to one in five people at some point in their lives. Although it is often a life-long condition, it can improve over several years.

Need to know

Symptoms vary but may include:

  • loose and frequent stools (diarrhoea)
  • hard stools which are difficult to pass (constipation)
  • bloating and the feeling of not having emptied your bowels completely, so needing to return to the toilet shortly after a bowel action

IBS is diagnosed by matching up your symptoms with examination findings and diagnostic test results. Blood tests, stool tests and a variety of endoscopic and radiological tests are used to exclude other serious conditions. The necessary tests vary from person to person but may include:

  • gastroscopy, to examine the stomach and first part of the small bowel
  • colonoscopy, to examine the large bowel and last section of the small bowel
  • capsule endoscopy, to examine the rest of the small bowel
  • imaging tests, such as ultrasound, CT and MRI scans
  • breath testing for sugar malabsorption

Most people need only some of these tests.

Although there are no cures for IBS, treatments are available that can improve your symptoms and quality of life. These include:

  • Lifestyle changes. Your diet can make a significant difference. Reducing the amount of stress you experience and increasing your ways of coping with stress can also help.
  • Probiotics and medicines. Probiotics can supplement your diet and may help to relieve symptoms of IBS. You are advised to take this for at least four weeks to determine its effectiveness. Medicines to relieve the symptoms of IBS are available such as laxatives, antispasmodics, anti-motility medicines and low-dose antidepressants.

Our Irritable bowel syndrome locations

The Harley Street Clinic

The Harley Street Clinic

35 Weymouth Street W1G 8BJ London
The Princess Grace Hospital

The Princess Grace Hospital

42-52 Nottingham Place W1U 5NY London
The Lister Hospital

The Lister Hospital

Chelsea Bridge Road, SW1W 8RH London
The Shard Outpatients

The Shard Outpatients

The Shard, 32 St Thomas Street SE1 9BS London
London Bridge Hospital

London Bridge Hospital

27 Tooley Street SE1 2PR London

Patient stories

This content is intended for general information only and does not replace the need for personal advice from a qualified health professional.