What is irritable bowel syndrome? Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a gastrointestinal disorder that produces abdominal pain, bloating, cramping, constipation, and diarrhea. Two forms of IBS are common, one that is accompanied by bloating, constipation, and abdominal fullness, and another in which diarrhea is present. Although IBS is not life threatening, its symptoms can severely erode quality of life and may even be disabling. IBS is one of the most common syndromes in the United States, affecting up to 20% of the population. It is more common in women than in men, and it usually begins before the age of 35. No specific anatomic abnormalities have been linked to IBS or any specific cause. There is no cure for IBS, but its symptoms are managed by medication, diet, and lifestyle changes. Unfortunately, up to 70% of patients with IBS do not get the proper treatment they need (Source: NDDIC). People with IBS often report that stress management and activities, such as yoga and meditation, can have a calming and positive effect on their condition. Medications that may be prescribed for IBS include antidepressants, antidiarrheals, antispasmodics to control spasms in the colon, and fiber supplements. Dietary modifications, such as limiting dairy and gluten intake, can be helpful for some people. Irritable bowel syndrome itself is not an emergency situation, but persistent diarrhea, a common symptom of the condition, can result in serious dehydration. Seek immediate medical care (call 911) for serious symptoms, such as severe abdominal pain, inability to pass gas or stool, vomiting blood, or blood in your stool. Seek prompt medical care if you are being treated for irritable bowel syndrome but mild symptoms recur or persist.