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MILWAUKEE, March 29, 2011 — IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome) symptoms often go away and reappear again. While this usually does not signify the development of a new digestive disorder, during April, IBS Awareness Month, the International Foundation for Functional Gastrointestinal Disorders (IFFGD) wants to remind patients of red flags and personal risk factors that indicate a need to revisit the doctor.

IBS affects about 10 to 15 percent of the population. The key symptoms are pain or discomfort in the abdomen, bloating, and constipation and/or diarrhea. Symptoms usually are related to meals or defecation.

“IBS does not cause physical damage, and it does not increase risk of other serious disease, such as colon cancer,” Nancy Norton, president and co-founder of IFFGD, said. “While an IBS diagnosis, if carefully made, is usually reliable, patients should be aware of personal risk factors that could make them more susceptible to other disorders as well as ‘alarm’ symptoms that warrant a doctor’s investigation.”

Some signs and symptoms that call for special consideration by a medical professional include:

  • Blood in the stools
  • Fever
  • Anemia
  • Onset of symptoms at age 50 or older
  • Nighttime symptoms that cause a person to wake up
  • Unintentional weight loss
  • A change in the symptom nature (such as new and different pain)

While these symptoms and signs require investigation in their own right, often a separate, but not serious, reason will be found to explain them.

Some factors that may put a person at greater than normal risk of acquiring a serious intestinal disease include:

  • Family history of other gastrointestinal (GI) diseases
  • Recent use of antibiotics
  • Exposure to intestinal infection
  • Travel to the tropics or the developing world
  • Exposure to a possibly contaminated food or drinking water supply

IBS often follows an unpredictable course. There may be intervals of relative calm, interspersed with periods of discomfort and chaotic bowel habits that interfere with a person’s daily life. However, should the symptoms change in nature, or one of the situations described above occur, a doctor visit becomes important to determine the reason for the change.

During April, IBS Awareness Month, IFFGD will offer free informational packets about IBS. The packets are available by writing to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or by calling 1-888-964-2001. Information also is available at IFFGD’s website: