Home > Patients & Visitors > Health Library > Medical History and Physical Exam for Irritable Bowel Syndrome
To find out whether
your symptoms meet the
criteria for diagnosing
irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), your doctor may ask
you questions about:
The dietary history will include questions about food
allergies and whether your symptoms seem to be related to any particular foods.
Foods that most commonly cause symptoms include lactose (milk sugar) and
sorbitol, an artificial sweetener found in sugarless chewing gum and other
The doctor may suggest that for a period of
time you try avoiding foods that seem to cause problems, to see if your
symptoms get better.
To help find out whether you have
irritable bowel syndrome, the doctor will perform a standard physical
A medical history and physical
exam are standard tests for people who have belly pain and changes
in bowel habits.
Key findings in IBS are belly pain that
is relieved with a bowel movement and a change in the consistency or number of
times a day or week that you have bowel movements. The pain is not limited to
one part of the abdomen. It may move around and may come and go. It often
occurs or gets worse when you eat. Stress may also be related to belly
The abdomen may be swollen if you have gas in the
intestines. Your abdomen may be tender when the doctor presses on it. Abnormal
bowel sounds may be heard, especially, but not only, if you have diarrhea. You
may report symptoms such as an urgent need to have bowel movements or a feeling
that you haven't completely emptied the bowel after you pass a stool.
A person who has IBS may have constipation more often, diarrhea more
often, or constipation that alternates with diarrhea.
physical findings should be normal for a diagnosis of IBS.
Because there is no detectable
structural problem that causes IBS, if you have a normal physical exam but you do have symptoms
of IBS, this strongly suggests that you have irritable bowel syndrome. If your doctor thinks your symptoms may be caused by another problem, he or she may recommend other tests, such as:
Your doctor may recommend other tests not in this list. But if there are no symptoms (such as anemia, rectal bleeding
or bloody diarrhea, fever, weight loss, pain that wakes you at night, or recent
change in bowel habits) that suggest other intestinal diseases, few additional
tests are needed. If these symptoms are present, tests for other problems, such
inflammatory bowel disease or an ulcer, may be
Complete the medical test information form (PDF)(What is a PDF document?) to help you prepare for this test.
ByHealthwise StaffPrimary Medical ReviewerE. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal MedicineKathleen Romito, MD - Family MedicineSpecialist Medical ReviewerArvydas D. Vanagunas, MD - Gastroenterology
Current as ofNovember 20, 2015
Current as of:
November 20, 2015
E. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal Medicine & Kathleen Romito, MD - Family Medicine & Arvydas D. Vanagunas, MD - Gastroenterology
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