Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is classified as a functional gastrointestinal disorder, which means there is some type of disturbance in bowel function. It is not a disease, but rather a syndrome, defined as a group of symptoms. These typically include chronic abdominal pain or discomfort and diarrhea, constipation, or alternating bouts of the two. People with IBS are also more likely to have other functional disorders such as fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome, chronic pelvic pain, and temporomandibular joint (TMJ) disorder.
IBS has been referred to by many names, including mucous colitis and spastic colitis, but these terms are inaccurate and lead to confusion about what IBS is. While the word "colitis" refers to an inflammation of the colon (large intestine), IBS does not cause inflammation. Unlike ulcerative colitis patients, IBS sufferers show no sign of disease or abnormalities when the colon is examined.
IBS does not produce the destructive inflammation found in IBD, so in many respects it is a less serious condition. It doesn't result in permanent harm to the intestines, intestinal bleeding, or the harmful complications often occurring with IBD. People with IBS are not at higher risk for colon cancer, nor are they more likely to develop IBD or other gastrointestinal diseases. IBS seldom requires hospitalization, and treatment does not usually involve surgery or powerful medications, such as steroids or immunosuppressives.
IBS can, however, cause a great deal of discomfort and distress, and can severely affect an individual's quality of life. Its symptoms can range from mildly annoying to disabling -- impinging on a person's self-image, social life, and ability to work or travel. People with IBS are more likely to seek health care for both gastrointestinal and non-gastrointestinal complaints compared to people without IBS. It is estimated that IBS results in direct and indirect medical costs of over $20 billion annually.
My bum is broken....there's a big crack down the middle of it! LOL :)