Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) symptoms may be disruptive and reduce the quality of life for those affected. However, this gastrointestinal disorder does not pose a risk of developing serious diseases, including cancer, and does not permanently damage the large intestine.

IBS is a common gastrointestinal disorder that affects millions of people worldwide. It is characterized by uncomfortable symptoms, including abdominal pain, bloating, constipation, and diarrhea. Understanding IBS can help alleviate unnecessary concerns and enable individuals to manage their symptoms effectively.

This article explores whether IBS is dangerous over time and delves into how to tell if IBS is serious, common symptoms, when to contact a doctor, and more.

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IBS is a common condition that affects approximately 10–15% of the population.

Concerns regarding the potential seriousness of bowel symptoms often motivate individuals to seek medical care for IBS.

Surprisingly, a nationwide population-based study in Sweden, including over 45,000 people with IBS, revealed no heightened mortality risk. Contrary to the apprehensions of more than half of IBS patients, their illness does not shorten their lifespan.

Furthermore, according to a 12-year cohort study among half a million people, those with IBS do not have a higher overall cancer risk compared with the general population. On the contrary, people with IBS may have a lower risk of developing colorectal cancer.

Determining the seriousness of IBS involves considering various symptoms and their impact on an individual’s daily life. While IBS itself is not typically associated with serious health risks, certain signs may warrant further evaluation.

Here are some more severe symptoms of IBS that may indicate a need for additional attention:

Anyone experiencing these symptoms should seek medical advice for an accurate diagnosis.

IBS results from dysfunctions in communication between the brain and the gut. Experts have found problems in the nervous system that supplies the gut, making it more prone to sensitivity.

Various factors contribute to IBS symptoms, including psychological factors, such as stress, certain foods, and gut microorganisms. While IBS can occasionally occur due to a gastrointestinal infection or antibiotic use, its origins are often unclear.

Common symptoms include:

To diagnose IBS, doctors perform a physical exam, assess symptoms, and review a person’s medical history, including their family history. Sometimes, doctors may request further tests to eliminate other underlying health issues.

Some studies have found that IBS is associated with an increased risk of diverticulosis. However, this is an association, not a direct cause.

Read about 10 signs and symptoms of IBS.

While IBS does not lead to serious diseases, life threatening conditions, or alter colon health, having IBS for a long time may still impact other aspects of a person’s life.

Living with long-term IBS symptoms can significantly impact the overall quality of life. It may limit a person’s ability to participate in social activities, affect work productivity, and lead to frustration or anxiety related to unpredictable bowel movements and discomfort.

Long-term IBS can also affect personal relationships and intimacy. Communicating with loved ones about the condition can help foster understanding and support.

Individuals with long-term IBS may modify their diet to manage symptoms better. This could involve avoiding certain trigger foods, following specific dietary plans, or seeking guidance from a registered dietitian.

While these adjustments can be helpful in symptom management, they may require ongoing dietary restrictions and lifestyle changes.

Read about treatment options for IBS.

IBS does not pose significant dangers or increase the risk of serious diseases over time. While IBS can cause discomfort and impact a person’s quality of life, it does not lead to severe health complications.

IBS is a chronic condition with symptoms such as abdominal pain, changes in bowel habits, and bloating. If people experience serious symptoms, such as unexplained weight loss and anemia, they should consult a doctor.