Could it be
It is never possible to be completely sure, since all bowel diseases can ‘irritate the bowel’ and cause the same symptoms, but there are certain questions that can help you decide whether you need to see your doctor.
Have I had this for longer than a month? IBS is a longstanding illness. It tends to come and go according to what’s happening.
Do I have any ‘Red Flag’ symptoms? A physical illness, such as colitis, coeliac disease or bowel cancer tends to ‘show its hand’ through the development of more alarming symptoms (see Red Flag Symptoms).
Have my symptoms changed? If your symptoms change for no obvious reason (diet or stress), you should check this out with your doctor/nurse.
Do I have a family history of Crohn’s Disease, Ulcerative Colitis, Colonic or Ovarian Cancer? If you do, it would be prudent to be screened for these conditions by your doctor.
Are you over 50 and have got symptoms of IBS with bowel irregularity for the first time? Bowel cancer tends to come on in older people often and the first symptom may be an irregular bowel habit.
Now click on: What else could it be?
Red Flag Symptoms
The following symptoms are warning signs for which you should always seek medical advice. They include:
Bleeding from the rectum. Although in many cases rectal bleeding are caused by haemorrhoids (piles), which often develop in people with IBS, regular loss of blood from the rectum should never be ignored, as it could be a symptom of colitis or cancer.
Weight loss. For most of us, our weight keeps relatively stable. So if you lose more than half a stone (3 Kg) weight without trying, you should check this out with your doctor.
Persistent fever and malaise (attacks of sweating, shivering and tiredness).
- An ongoing change in bowel habit occurring for no obvious reason (diet or stress or medication). This is particularly important the older you get (over 50) because of the risk of bowel cancer.