Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a digestive disorder that causes abdominal pain, diarrhea, constipation, bloating, gas or a combination of the above. IBS occurs in people of all ages, including children. Some children may have diarrhea as a dominant symptom, while others may have constipation as a dominant symptom. Certain children have symptoms that alternate between diarrhea and constipation. Stress has been implicated as a trigger in IBS, but stress alone does not cause IBS.
Diarrhea alternating with constipation
Mucus in the stool
Weight loss in some children
Urgency with bowel movement
Sensation of incomplete emptying after bowel movement
To diagnose IBS, the doctor will ask questions about symptoms and examine the child to rule out more serious problems or diseases. IBS is not a disease — it is a syndrome, or group of symptoms that occur together. It does not damage the intestine, so if the physical exam and other tests show no sign of disease or damage, the doctor may diagnose IBS.
IBS is usually treated by introducing more fiber into the child’s diet. Bowel-training to empty the bowels at regular, specific times during the day may help. In children with constipation, laxatives should be used with caution because they may lead to addiction and compound the problem. When used, laxatives are taken usually short term and parents must follow the doctor’s instructions precisely.