About one-third of interstitial cystitis (IC) patients have irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).  IBS is a functional bowel disorder in which abdominal pain or discomfort is associated with defecation or a change in bowel habits. The cause of IBS is not completely understood. Many factors may contribute to symptoms, which vary from person to person.

IBS is a complex motor and sensory disorder. It is very common and in addition to IC can overlap with other conditions. IBS diagnosis is made primarily by well-defined symptoms. Effective diagnosis and treatment starts with the recognition of the validity of symptom complaints. If you have cramping, abdominal pain, bloating, gas, diarrhea and constipation you may have IBS.

The changes in normal function appear to be due, in part, to disturbances affecting the normal movement (motility) of muscles in the intestines. The muscle contractions can be influenced by several factors, such as stretching or distention, hormones, and stress. Alterations in the sensitivity of the nerves in the gut, and a dysregulation in the way the brain controls these functions, are other factors contributing to the pain and other symptoms of IBS.

If you have any of these symptoms, talk with your IC healthcare provider. A referral to a specialist to evaluate you for IBS may be required. Setting realistic treatment goals that fit individual needs is an important step. A strong partnership between a knowledgeable patient and an empathetic, knowledgeable healthcare provider can produce significant improvement and control over symptoms for most individuals with IC and IBS.

For the latest information about IBS, visit the International Foundation for Functional Gastrointestinal Disorders (IFFGD) website.

Revised Wednesday, March 25th, 2015