April is dedicated to raising awareness about IBS (irritable bowel syndrome), a common chronic functional gastrointestinal disorder that manifests as abdominal pain, cramping, gas, and diarrhea or constipation, or sometimes both.
If you suspect you may have IBS, talk to your primary care doctor. In most cases, primary care physicians can recommend a variety of treatments to alleviate IBS. In the situation that your IBS is complicated to treat, your primary care physician may refer you to an in-network gastroenterologist.
Diagnosis of IBS: What Your Primary Care Physician Will Do
Keep in mind that there is no test to diagnose IBS. Diagnosis is solely based on your medical history and the presence of specific symptoms. Your primary care physician’s approach to a diagnosis will be to rule out other conditions that might have symptoms similar to IBS through reviewing your medical history, conducting a physical examination, and ordering diagnostic tests.
The following are some red flags that, if found during IBS diagnosis, indicate you might have another more serious condition.
- Weight loss
- GIT (gastrointestinal tract) bleeding
- Abdominal pain that occurs at night or isn’t related to bowel movements
When you have these red flags, additional testing will be ordered to rule out other causes of symptoms. Most gastroenterology-related tests and procedures are performed by specialists. These tests might include:
- Colonoscopy – involves the use of a lighted, thin and flexible tube to examine the colon.
- Flexible sigmoidoscopy – uses a sigmoidoscope (a thin tube with a light and viewing instrument) to view the rectum and part of the colon for cancer or polyps.
- Upper endoscopy – involves sending a long, flexible, and camera-fitted tube down the throat into the stomach to inspect the upper digestive tract (esophagus, stomach, duodenum) and obtain a tissue sample from the small intestine. Digestive tract fluid is also obtained to see if there is an overgrowth of certain bacteria in the GIT.
- Imaging tests – involve using X-rays or CT scans to examine your pelvic and abdominal organs, particularly if you have abdomen pain. Before an X-ray, your large intestine might be filled with a liquid, i.e., barium, for better imaging results.
Your primary care physician might also suggest some laboratory tests, including:
- Lactose intolerance test – to rule out if intolerance to dairy products is the cause of symptoms like gas, diarrhea, and abdominal pain.
- Breath test – to determine if bacterial overgrowth is causing your symptoms.
- Stool test – to determine if bacteria, parasite, or bile acids are the cause of symptoms like diarrhea.
Referral to a Gastroenterologist
Your primary care doctor may refer you to a gastroenterologist if your IBS is complicated to treat. While lifestyle changes and medications can help keep this condition at bay, some people have a more difficult time keeping the condition under control than others. In such a situation, you may be referred to a specialist for treatment.
Primary Care Physician Near Me in Sarasota and Lakewood Ranch, FL
If you believe your digestive discomfort is due to IBS, look no further than the primary care physicians at Intercostal Medical Group. Our primary care physicians and gastroenterologists have established a reputation of excellence in effectively treating and managing GIT disorders like irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). Our primary care physicians are delighted to help patients take better care of their digestive health and, if necessary, can refer you to a gastroenterologist that serve patients at our Cattleridge Medical Building and Lakewood Ranch II location.