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April is IBS Awareness Month, which makes this a good time to learn about the symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome, or IBS.
Research suggests that about 12% of people in the U.S. have irritable bowel syndrome, and it's more common among women than men and in people younger than 50, according to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases.
Irritable bowel syndrome is a chronic condition that affects the large intestine. Even though the digestive tract looks normal, it doesn't function as it should. Normally, the muscles in the intestines that move food from the stomach to the rectum contract and relax in a gentle rhythm that moves the food along in a fairly predictable schedule. But with irritable bowel syndrome, the muscles in the intestines spasm, making the contractions longer and stronger than normal. Those spasms are painful, and they disrupt the movement of food through the intestines.
Only a small number of people with irritable bowel syndrome have severe symptoms. Some people can control their symptoms by managing diet, lifestyle and stress. More severe symptoms can be treated with medication and counseling.
Symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome vary, but the most common include:
Many people have occasional signs and symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome, but you're more likely to have the syndrome if you:
Connect with others talking about managing IBS and living well in the Digestive Health support group on Mayo Clinic Connect, an online patient community moderated by Mayo Clinic.
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