Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a widely known bowel condition but there is still widespread misconceptions about the condition. All too often people label chronic bowel diseases as irritable bowel syndrome without fully understanding the extent of the syndrome. However, the symptoms of Irritable Bowel Syndrome may be seen with a host of other bowel diseases, some of which may have life-threatening consequences if left untreated. It is therefore important to know the basic facts about IBS and clear up the confusion and misconceptions between IBS and other chronic bowel conditions like inflammatory bowel disease (IBD).

IBS is not a disease

More correctly, irritable bowel syndrome does not occur due to any pathology. This simply means that there is no specific disease process that can be identified in the bowel and usually there are no severe consequences with progression of the condition. Why Irritable Bowel Syndrome arises and what exactly is “wrong” with the body for IBS to be present is unknown. Irritable bowel syndrome is therefore said to be a functional bowel disorder meaning that there is an abnormality in the bowel function but it is not a pathological process.

Irritable Bowel Syndrome has many names

Irritable bowel syndrome or IBS for short is the accepted name for the collection of symptoms that characterizes the condition. However, it is also known by several other names. The still widely used spastic colon is one such name which has been deemed outdated. It is also known as irritable colon but this may be inaccurate in that the disturbance may not lie solely in the colon. Another name for Irritable Bowel Syndrome is nervous colon as the condition seems to be aggravated by stress and is more likely due to over- or underactivity of the nerves controlling the lower bowel.

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