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IBD vs IBS: What are the Differences Between These Two Conditions?

IBD vs IBS: What are the Differences Between These Two Conditions?

When it comes to IBD vs IBS, it’s not uncommon for people to get confused. After all, both of them affect the gastrointestinal or GI tract, and they can both have similar symptoms. But how can you tell the difference between IBD vs IBS, and when should you seek medical attention for either of these conditions?

What is Inflammatory Bowel Disease or IBD?

Inflammatory bowel disease, or IBD, is a condition that affects the intestines. It’s not a specific illness per se, but is used as a collective term for diseases that cause inflammation of the intestines. The most common diseases under IBD are ulcerative colitis and Crohn Disease.

Crohn disease causes inflammation of any portion of the luminal gastrointestinal tract, anywhere from the oral cavity to perianal area. Ulcerative colitis is recurring episodes of inflammation limited to the mucosal layer of the colon.

Doctors still are not sure what exactly causes inflammatory bowel disease. However, the prevailing theory is that it happens because of genetics, or it could be related to an autoimmune response. What this means is that instead of the immune system attacking harmful diseases, it starts to attack the healthy cells of the intestines. This results in inflammation of the intestines, and the host of symptoms associated with IBD.

Because of the inflammation that results from IBD, patients can experience diarrhea, constipation, cramps, or even bloody stools. In more serious cases, patients can even experience anemia, sudden weight loss, and loss of appetite.

At the moment, there is no cure for IBD. The best thing that patients can do would be to manage their condition in order to avoid flare-ups.

Bloating as Sign of Inflammatory Bowel Disease and Other Conditions

What is Irritable Bowel Syndrome or IBS?

Irritable bowel syndrome, or IBS, is is recurrent abdominal pain, on average, at least once a day per week, in the last 3 months associated with 2 or more of the following: related to defecation, associated with change in stool frequency, and associated with a change in stool appearance..

It’s not uncommon for patients with IBS to experience abdominal pain, cramps, as well as diarrhea, constipation, or even both. IBS can also make patients feel gassy or bloated, and can even affect their day to day life, if not managed.

Similar to inflammatory bowel disease, irritable bowel syndrome has no known cure. However, the symptoms can be managed by a change in diet, or through medication.


IBD vs IBS: What Are Their Differences?

Despite having similar symptoms, IBD and IBS and very different conditions.

One of the biggest differences between IBD vs IBS is that IBD is a disease, and IBS is a syndrome. This is because IBD triggers specific effects in the body and comes with various symptoms, while IBS is more of a collection of symptoms that patients can experience.

Another key difference is that inflammatory bowel disease can cause serious harm and inflammation to the intestine. If left untreated, patients can suffer serious health problems, and can even have impaired function of their intestines.

In contrast, IBS does not cause any inflammation, and for the most part, doesn’t require any hospitalization. However, IBS can cause a lot of discomfort and can also affect a person’s quality of life.

Another difference is that the effects of inflammatory bowel disease can clearly be seen during imaging tests. On the other hand, imaging tests don’t show any abnormality for patients with irritable bowel syndrome.

Key Takeaways

When it comes to IBD vs IBS, the most important thing to remember is that both of these conditions need to be taken seriously. If you have either of these conditions, don’t hesitate to visit your doctor in order to see what can be done about your condition. This way, you can learn how to manage IBD or IBS, and ensure that you can still have a high quality of life.

Learn more about IBS here.

Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.


IBS or IBD Symptoms: What is the Difference? | Cedars-Sinai, https://www.cedars-sinai.org/blog/is-it-ibs-or-ibd.html#:~:text=IBS%20is%20a%20disorder%20of,and%20narrowing%20of%20the%20intestines., Accessed January 11, 2021

IBS vs IBD | Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation, https://www.crohnscolitisfoundation.org/what-is-ibd/ibs-vs-ibd, Accessed January 11, 2021

IBS vs IBD: What’s the Difference? | Gastrointestinal Society, https://badgut.org/information-centre/a-z-digestive-topics/the-irritable-gut-ibs-vs-ibd/, Accessed January 11, 2021

Inflammatory bowel disease versus irritable bowel syndrome: a hospital-based, case-control study of disease impact on quality of life – PubMed, https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/14621276/, Accessed January 11, 2021

IBS vs. IBD – UAB Medicine News – UAB Medicine, https://www.uabmedicine.org/-/ibs-vs-ibd, Accessed January 11, 2021

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Written by Jan Alwyn Batara Updated Jun 03
Medically reviewed by Mia Dacumos, M.D.