Irritable Bowel Syndrome, also known as IBS, is a very common condition. Although the underlying reasons for IBS are usually unclear, it likely involves a combination of abnormal spasmodic gut contractions and increased sensitivity of the gut to pain.
The symptoms of IBS are extremely varied and non-specific. Broadly, IBS symptoms can be divided into Constipation and Diarrhoea subtypes.
Constipation subtypes tend to have abdominal bloatedness, periodic distension of the abdomen and constipation with the passage of stools only once every few days. A regularly occurring sharp pain of the abdomen is often present as well.
Diarrhoea subtypes will tend to have a frequent passage of stools up to several times a day, urgency in passing motion and the symptoms can often be triggered by spicy or milk-containing foods or coffee. Similarly, sharp abdominal pain is often present.
Treatment of IBS will require some dietary discretion and oral anti-spasmodic medications. The symptoms of IBS tend to wax and wane and flare-ups are common.
Enteritis/Food Poisoning can be caused by both viruses and bacteria. The route of infiltration of the offending organism is invariably through oral intake.
The symptoms of Food Poisoning include diarrhoea, nausea and vomiting, crampy abdominal pain and fever. In severe cases, bloody diarrhoea can also occur. With continuous vomiting and diarrhoea, severe dehydration can occur and intravenous fluids and medications will be needed till the symptoms resolve.
A rapid PCR stool test for the common pathogens (both viruses and bacteria) can help discern whether antibiotic treatment is necessary.
Crohn’s Disease (CD) is a form of Inflammatory Bowel Disease. It is an autoimmune condition where the body attacks and damages itself. Crohn’s Disease can involve the entire gastrointestinal tract from the oesophagus to the anus.
Symptoms include abdominal pain, blood in the stools, unexplained weight loss, development of skin openings with liquid discharge (also known as Fistulas) and anaemia symptoms. Anal fistulas are fairly common and manifest as a recurrent perianal abscess or anal discharge. Crohn’s Disease greatly increase the risk of gastrointestinal tract cancers
Small Bowel Tumours are uncommon and are often diagnosed only in more advanced stages of the disease.
The symptoms include unexplained weight loss, anaemia symptoms with no obvious source of blood loss and vague abdominal pain. The tumour can also cause acute obstruction with abdominal distension, absence of faeces and gas from the bottom, severe vomiting and dehydration. Acute obstruction is a surgical emergency.