Skip to Main Content
Diagnosis Gastroenterology

Irritable Bowel Syndrome

Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) shares many of the same symptoms with other gastrointestinal disorders. If you think you have IBS, you should visit your doctor.

There is no particular diagnostic test for IBS. The condition is diagnosed based on its symptoms and by ruling out other diseases. Typically your doctor will begin by asking about your medical history and your current symptoms. In addition, he or she will perform a physical evaluation. Diagnostic tests may be used to rule out other disorders. These can include stool or blood tests, X-rays, endoscopy and colonoscopy.

Because IBS has symptoms similar to other gastrointestinal disorders, doctors use specific criteria to help make a definite diagnosis. These include the following:

  • Abdominal pain or discomfort experienced for at least 12 weeks out of the previous 12 months. These 12 weeks do not have to be consecutive.

The abdominal pain or discomfort has two of the following three features:

  • The pain or discomfort is relieved by having a bowel movement.
  • When it starts, there is a change in how often you have a bowel movement.
  • When it starts, there is a change in the form of the stool or the way it looks.

UCSF Health medical specialists have reviewed this information. It is for educational purposes only and is not intended to replace the advice of your doctor or other health care provider. We encourage you to discuss any questions or concerns you may have with your provider.