Symptoms of IBS 

The symptoms of IBS are usually worse after eating and tend to come and go in episodes.

Most people have flare-ups of symptoms that last a few days. After this time, the symptoms usually improve, but may not disappear completely.

In some people, the symptoms seem to be triggered by something they have had to eat or drink. 

Read more about IBS triggers.

Main symptoms

The most common symptoms of IBS are:

  • abdominal (stomach) pain and cramping, which may be relieved by having a poo
  • a change in your bowel habits  such as diarrhoeaconstipation, or sometimes both
  • bloating and swelling of your stomach  
  • excessive wind (flatulence)
  • occasionally experiencing an urgent need to go to the toilet
  • a feeling that you have not fully emptied your bowels after going to the toilet 
  • passing mucus from your bottom 

Additional problems

In addition to the main symptoms described above, some people with IBS experience a number of other problems. These can include:

  • a lack of energy (lethargy)
  • feeling sick
  • backache
  • bladder problems (such as needing to wake up to urinate at night, experiencing an urgent need to urinate and difficulty fully emptying the bladder)
  • pain during sex (dyspareunia)
  • incontinence

The symptoms of IBS can also have a significant impact on a person's day-to-day life and can have a deep psychological impact. As a result, many people with the condition have feelings of depression and anxiety.

When to see your GP

You should see your GP if you think you have IBS symptoms, so they can try to identify the cause.

They can often do this by asking about your symptoms, although further tests are occasionally needed to rule out other conditions.

You should also visit your GP if you are feeling anxious or depressed. These problems rarely improve without treatment and could make your IBS symptoms worse.

If you have other symptoms  including unexplained weight loss, a swelling or lump in your stomach or bottom, bleeding from your bottom, or signs of anaemia – you should see your GP right away, as these can sometimes be a sign of a potentially more serious condition.

Read more about diagnosing IBS.

Page last reviewed: 25/09/2014

Next review due: 25/09/2016