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Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a long-term (chronic) disorder that affects the large intestine or colon. IBS causes painful belly (abdominal) and bowel symptoms.
With IBS, the colon appears normal. But it doesn’t work the way it should.
The exact physical cause of IBS is not known. A child with IBS may have a colon that is more sensitive than normal. This means the colon has a strong reaction to things that should not normally affect it.
Children may feel IBS symptoms because of:
All of these things can cause IBS symptoms. You should stress to your child that his or her belly pain is real and not imaginary.
Each child’s symptoms may vary. Symptoms may include:
The symptoms of IBS may look like other health problems. Make sure your child sees his or her healthcare provider for a diagnosis.
Your child's healthcare provider will take a full health history and do a physical exam. A diagnosis of IBS is made by ruling out other causes of the symptoms.
There are some symptoms that may point to a cause other than IBS. This can help your child's healthcare provider decide what lab tests and procedures may be needed. These symptoms include:
The provider will order lab tests to check for infection and inflammation. These may include:
Your child’s healthcare provider will create a care plan based on:
There is no cure for IBS. The main goal of treatment is to ease symptoms and help your child get back to normal daily activities. Treatment may include:
A child with IBS often doesn’t feel well. And the physical symptoms of IBS can lead to stress and emotional problems. For example, children with diarrhea may not get to the bathroom in time. This can make them feel embarrassed. They may then avoid going to school or playing with friends. This can cause depression and anxiety.
Most children with IBS continue to grow and develop normally. But some children may eat less to avoid the pain that can go along with digestion. This can lead to weight loss.
IBS symptoms can affect your child’s daily activities. It’s important to work with your child’s healthcare provider to manage the disease. You may need a plan to deal with issues such as diet, school, and emotional or mental health.
It is important to know the triggers that cause your child's symptoms and then avoid those triggers. Triggers often include:
Keeping a food and symptoms diary may help you to better understand your child’s triggers.
Help your child find positive ways to cope. This can help them take part in school and other activities. Some methods that may be helpful include:
Talk with your child's healthcare provider to find methods and interventions that may be right for your child.
If your child is having a hard time coping with IBS, talk with your child's healthcare provider. You might consider having your child see a specialist, such as a:
Contact your child’s healthcare provider if your child has any of the following symptoms:
Call your child's provider right away if your child has been diagnosed with IBS and develops other symptoms including:
Tips to help you get the most from a visit to your child’s healthcare provider:
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