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Irritable bowel syndrome.

Do you have abdominal pain? Do you feel full after eating just a few bites of a meal? Do you experience prolonged and painful bouts of bloating, diarrhea or constipation? If you answered yes to a combination of any of these questions, you may want to ask your doctor about the gastrointestinal disorder known as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).

IBS is a serious, but not life-threatening, condition that causes abdominal pain, discomfort, inconvenience, embarrassment and medical expense, according to the International Foundation for Functional Gastrointestinal Disorders.

Increasingly, African-Americans--especially women--are being diagnosed with the disorder, which affects up to 20 percent of the population, according to the foundation. About 15 percent of African-American women who complain of abdominal pain have been diagnosed with the disorder, doctors say.

Diagnosing IBS can be difficult, and there is no test to diagnose the condition, the foundation says. As a result, doctors rely on answers to several questions about a patient's discomfort, medical history and physical exams.

While increasing the intake of fiber in the diet is an important step toward getting relief, treatment is available in the form of two relatively new drugs that tackle the multiple symptoms of IBS, including pain. Lotronex (alosetron) has been approved for women with severe IBS and whose main bowel symptom is diarrhea. Zelnorm (tegaserod) has been approved for the short-term treatment of women with IBS and whose primary bowel symptom is constipation, according to the International Foundation for Functional Gastrointestinal Disorders. Since most new treatments are geared toward women, men are encouraged to work with their doctors to determine the best way to treat their symptoms. Besides increasing fiber, doctors may prescribe laxatives for constipation or medicines to decrease diarrhea. An antispasmodic is commonly prescribed to control colon muscle spasms and to reduce abdominal pain. Antidepressants may relieve some symptoms.

The cause of IBS is unclear, experts say. But doctors say that sufferers can find some relief by making major lifestyle adjustments in their diet and exercise routines. Reducing stress levels also is important in managing the disorder.

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Title Annotation:Health Hotline
Article Type:Disease/Disorder overview
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jul 1, 2006
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