Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a chronic gastrointestinal disorder characterised by recurrent bouts of abdominal discomfort and pain, bloating and a changeable bowel habit. Generally a patient with IBS will have periods of time when they feel well, interspersed with acute bouts of their particular gastrointestinal symptoms. IBS is regarded as the most frequently encountered gastrointestinal diagnosis in primary care. In some patients, IBS can significantly affect quality of life, however, reassurance can be given that IBS itself does not predispose the patient to life-threatening disease. Patients with IBS tend to be high users of health care services and some patients invest a significant amount of time and money on dietary modification and over-the-counter remedies in an attempt to control or relieve their symptoms. Ongoing research is changing the way IBS is viewed and this is providing evidence for new treatment approaches.
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