Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) remains one of the most common gastrointestinal
disorders seen by doctors in primary and secondary care. It is the most diagnosed
gastrointestinal condition and is second only to the common cold as a cause of
absence from work. While IBS is not a life-threatening condition, the disorder has a
substantial impact on quality of life and social functioning.
IBS is characterised by chronic abdominal pain and altered bowel habits in the
absence of any organic cause. IBS was for many years considered to be a functional
gastrointestinal disorder, which implied that the patient experienced gastrointestinal
symptoms in the absence of a specific cause or disease state. However, substantial
advances have been made in understanding the complex pathophysiology of IBS,
resulting in its re-classification as a disorder of gut-brain interaction, rather than a
functional gastrointestinal disorder.
There has been a considerable amount of new evidence published concerning the
diagnosis and management of IBS and both the British Society of Gastroenterology
and the American College of Gastroenterology have updated their guidelines on the
management of IBS.
Since many patients may have IBS-type symptoms for many years without
consulting a doctor, often managing their symptoms with medicines available over-
the-counter (OTC) in the pharmacy, the pharmacist can play an important role in
identifying and assisting the patient with IBS. This module provides an update on IBS
for the pharmacist and discusses the latest information on the causes, diagnosis,