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How can my doctor be sure I have IBS? Shouldn't they run more tests?


Updated September 05, 2012

Question: How can my doctor be sure I have IBS? Shouldn't they run more tests?

It is common for people with IBS to worry about their IBS diagnosis, specifically wondering if their doctors have missed something. It can boggle the mind that symptoms can be so severe and disabling, yet nothing shows up abnormal in routine testing. Yet IBS is a functional gastrointestinal disorder, one in which the problem lies in how the digestive system functions. There is no visible inflammation or tissue or structural abnormality that would show up during common GI diagnostic procedures. Therefore, there is typically no need to run an extensive battery of tests.

After ruling out other disorders through routine blood work and a fecal occult blood test, doctors use the Rome III criteria to make a confident diagnosis of IBS. The Rome criteria are as follows:

Symptoms must be present for at least six months and have been experienced on at least three days of at least three months. Specifically, symptoms must consist of recurrent abdominal pain or discomfort with two or more of the following:
  • Pain is relieved by a bowel movement
  • Onset of pain is related to a change in frequency of stool
  • Onset of pain is related to a change in the appearance of stool


Functional Bowel Disorders (2006). Longstreth, G.F., et.al. Gastroenterologyy 130:1480-1491.

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DISCLAIMER: The information contained on this site is for educational purposes only and should not be used as a substitute for diagnosis or treatment rendered by a licensed physician. It is essential that you discuss with your doctor any symptoms or medical problems that you may be experiencing.

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