What’s the Difference between IBS and IBD?

Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) are two intestinal issues that are commonly confused with each other. However, IBS and IBD are two completely separate conditions.

A symptom many people experience that is common to both IBS and IBD is abdominal pain. This is one reason why these conditions are commonly confused but IBD is a much more serious medical condition.

General Differences

an inside look at the organs affected by IBS and IBDIf you are trying to figure out if the pain in your stomach is being caused by IBS or IBD, it is best to learn what makes these two conditions different. Irritable bowel syndrome is a much more common medical condition than inflammatory bowel disease. An estimated 1 out of 5 people in the united states suffer from IBS. On the other hand, only 1 out of every 200 Americans are living with IBD.

A very important distinction between IBS and IBD is the severity of each disorder. Inflammatory bowel disease has some very serious diseases that fall under its umbrella. This includes ulcerative colitis, a disease that causes ulcers to occur within your large intestine and within the rectum, and Crohn’s disease, a condition that can cause inflammation in the rectum as well as ulcers to occur in the large and small intestines that are extremely painful.

While inflammatory bowel disease includes some serious intestinal disorders, irritable bowel syndrome is not a serious disease and will not cause serious disease to occur. However, IBS can cause you to suffer from intestinal pain and discomfort.

The Different Symptoms of IBS and IBD

IBS can cause people to have a wide range of symptoms. These symptoms can also be different from person to person. Another issue physicians face when diagnosing irritable bowel syndrome is that the symptoms can be similar to those of other diseases. So an endoscope may be required to see if you have IBS or a more serious condition, such as IBD.

Some common symptoms experienced by people with IBS are:

  • Excessive gas
  • Severe abdominal pain and cramping
  • Bloating
  • Constipation
  • Diarrhea

Inflammatory bowel disease can present with many of the same symptoms as IBS which can make distinguishing the two difficult. However, there some warning symptoms associated with IBD that can allow doctors to eliminate IBS as a possibility.

Warning signs of IBD to look out for include:

  • Weight loss
  • Rectal bleeding
  • Fever
  • Fatigue
  • Reduced appetite

Since both IBS and IBD can have such similar symptoms, one method a physician can use to help diagnose which disorder you have is the use of an endoscope. An endoscope is a long,flexible tube that is used to peer inside your gastrointestinal tract.

When an endoscope procedure is used to look into the gastrointestinal tract, someone with IBS will not exhibit any inflammation or obvious signs of IBS. However, someone with IBD will show signs of inflammation within the intestines. Typically a biopsy is performed to confirm a diagnosis of IBD, while an IBS diagnosis is based on the patient displaying the signs and symptoms IBS.

The Different Methods for Treating IBS and IBD

Another difference between IBS and IBD is the method in which each condition is treated. If you have been diagnosed with irritable bowel syndrome, your treatment will be determined based on the symptoms that you exhibit. For instance, to treat constipation, you may be given fiber supplements to improve bowel function. However, anti-diarrhea medication would be prescribed to treat diarrhea.

Another way to treat IBS and help improve symptoms is through dietary changes. Eliminating certain foods from your diet that exacerbate your IBS symptoms can help prevent you from experiencing abdominal pain and discomfort.

If you have been diagnosed with an inflammatory bowel disease, treatment is focused on reducing inflammation. In order to control and reduce inflammation, your doctor will typically prescribe an anti-inflammatory drug such as a corticosteroid. However, you may be prescribed an immunosuppressant to reduce the immune response and relieve inflammation in severe cases.


Because of the similarities in symptoms of both IBS and IBD, it is difficult to tell which condition you may have from abdominal pain or diarrhea. In order to make sure which intestinal disorder you are suffering from be sure to report any symptoms you experience to your doctor. To confirm a diagnosis, additional tests may need to be performed.

At Accord Clinical Research, we are dedicated to helping improve the treatment options and quality of life for people living with IBS through IBS clinical studies. If you have been diagnosed with IBS, you could qualify to participate in an IBS clinical trial at our clinic in Port Orange, FL. Explore our IBS trial page to learn more about participating in a study.

Remember that although IBS and IBD can have similar symptoms, IBD can be a much more serious condition. If you suffer from abdominal pain, diarrhea, or constipation, don’t wait, consult your doctor to get a confirmed diagnosis of IBS or IBD before symptoms become too severe.



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