Types of IBS and What They Mean

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Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) causes different symptoms in different people. That’s because there are different types of IBS. The key symptoms for most people with IBS are abdominal pain or discomfort and changes in bowel movements. The different types of IBS depend on what type of bowel movement changes you have.

It's important for you and your doctor to know your IBS type. Knowing the type can help you choose the treatment with the best chance of working.

IBS With Constipation: IBS-C

You may have IBS-C if you have hard or lumpy stools in at least 1 out of 4 bowel movements. IBS-C causes loose or watery stools in less than 1 out of 4 bowel movements. 

Other symptoms of IBS-C may include:

  • Having bowel movements less frequently

  • Feeling like you have to strain to have a bowel movement

  • Feeling like you can’t completely empty your bowel

  • Feeling like you need to have a bowel movement but you can’t

If you have IBS-C, the best treatment may include laxatives or medications especially for people with IBS-C.

IBS With Diarrhea: IBS-D

You may have IBS-D if you have loose or watery stools in at least 1 out of 4 bowel movements. IBS-D causes hard or lumpy stools in less than 1 out of 4 bowel movements.

Other symptoms of IBS-D may include:

  • Sudden urges to have a bowel movement

  • More frequent bowel movements

  • Feeling like you can’t completely empty your bowel

If you have IBS-D, the best treatment may include an over-the-counter antidiarrheal medication or a medication specifically for IBS-D.

Other Types of IBS

You may have a mixed type of IBS with constipation and diarrhea. Your type may also change over time.

Other types include:

  • Mixed IBS (IBS-M): This type causes hard or lumpy stools in at least 1 out of 4 bowel movements and loose or watery stools in at least 1 out of 4 bowel movements.

  • Unsubtyped IBS (IBS-U): This type causes hard or lumpy stools in less than 1 out of 4 bowel movements and loose or watery stools in less than 1 out of 4 bowel movements.

  • Post-infectious IBS (PI-IBS): This type causes sudden onset of IBS symptoms after a gastrointestinal infection. Most often, bacteria caused the infection. The bacteria could have come from contaminated food or water. PI-IBS usually causes more diarrhea than constipation. The good news about this type is that it may go away. About half of people with PI-IBS recover in a few years.

Knowing your type of IBS may help you find the best treatment, especially if you are IBS-C or IBS-D. But, no matter what type you have, you may have common IBS symptoms like pain, bloating and gas. There are treatments for these symptoms too. Work with your doctor to find the treatments best for you. 

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Medical Reviewer: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS
Last Review Date: 2020 Aug 10
THIS TOOL DOES NOT PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. It is intended for informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment because of something you have read on the site. If you think you may have a medical emergency, immediately call your doctor or dial 911.

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