Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) Diagnosis

If you or a loved one experience unexplained symptoms such as diarrhea, rectal bleeding or abdominal pain, make an appointment with your doctor. There are many causes of stomach pain, so it is important to receive an expert diagnosis from an experienced gastroenterologist.

Diagnosing Irritable Bowel Syndrome

Since it is difficult to diagnose irritable bowel syndrome, doctors often work by process of elimination. By ruling out other diseases, we can confirm a diagnosis of IBS.

Diagnostic procedures include:

Rome criteria
Researchers have developed a process to help doctors diagnose IBS. You must fit certain criteria and experience certain symptoms before we can diagnose you with IBS. If you fit these criteria and don’t have symptoms that indicate a more serious disease, we can often proceed straight to treatment. If the treatment is unsuccessful, though, we may need to do more testing.

The Rome criteria include:

  • Abdominal pain lasting at least 12 weeks. The weeks do not have to be consecutive.
  • You must have two or more of the following:
    • Change in the frequency or consistency of your stool
    • A feeling of straining or urgency, or a feeling that you can’t completely empty your bowels
    • Mucus in your stool
    • Bloating

Other tests

Your doctor may recommend you undergo further testing to check for infection or to rule out other causes. These include:

  • Colonoscopy, a procedure to examine your entire colon. Your doctor may also take tissue samples to examine under a microscope.
  • Flexible sigmoidoscopy is similar to a colonoscopy, but examines only one section of the colon.
  • Computed tomography (CT) scan 
  • Lactose intolerance test, to determine if you are lactose intolerant.
  • Blood tests to help rule out celiac disease.

Irritable Bowel Syndrome: Treatment

Once we have ruled out other diseases and confirmed a diagnosis of IBS, we will create your individualized treatment plan. The goal of treatment is to relieve your symptoms and improve your quality of life. Treatment options usually include dietary changes and medication. Learn more about irritable bowel syndrome treatment.

Find a Fletcher Allen physician or call 802-847-8865.