Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)–a chronic condition affecting the colon–and urinary tract infections (UTIs)–acute or chronic bacterial infections of the urethra or bladder–can both cause discomfort and lifestyle impairment. A study in the August 2006 issue of “Alimentary Pharmacology and Therapeutics” suggests that they may be likely to occur together, reporting that persons with IBS are more likely to report UTIs. It is important to recognize the symptoms of IBS and UTIs so that you can obtain proper medical care and learn how to manage these conditions.
General IBS Symptoms
IBS is characterized by irregularity in bowel function (either diarrhea, constipation, or alternating diarrhea and constipation), abdominal pain and bloating. To receive a diagnosis of IBS, symptoms such as bloating, mucus in the stool, a change in the frequency and/or appearance of bowel movements, and feelings of uncontrollable urgency to have bowel movements must be present for at least 12 weeks (consecutive or non-consecutive) of a given 12-month period. Additionally, you must demonstrate two of these three symptoms: a feeling of relief upon having a bowel movement, a change in the frequency of bowel movements from the onset of the problem and a change in the form or appearance of the stool.
IBS is associated with affective disorders, such as depression and anxiety, and symptoms of IBS are also known to worsen premenstrually. IBS may also flare up in response to stressful events (traveling, certain foods, emotional trauma) and then diminish or disappear for some time, often without clear explanation. Although there is no cure for IBS, lifestyle and dietary modifications or prescription medications may offer symptom relief.
IBS with Diarrhea (IBS-D) and IBS with Constipation (IBS-C) Symptoms
Although some people may alternate between having constipation and diarrhea, most people with IBS tend to have either symptoms of chronic diarrhea or chronic constipation and are diagnosed accordingly with either IBS with diarrhea (IBS-D) or IBS with constipation (IBS-C).
Abdominal pain is the characteristic symptom associated with IBS-D. Those suffering from IBS-D may also experience gas, sudden urges to have a bowel movement and loose stools. Some people with IBS-D have feelings of nausea, frequent urges to have a bowel movement or bothersome feelings that they are unable to completely empty their bowels. Some people may lose control of their bowels and soil themselves when the urge comes on very strongly and suddenly.
Like those with IBS-D, the key symptom among those with IBS-C is abdominal pain and discomfort. IBS-C is also characterized by infrequent stools, straining during a bowel movement, feeling unable to completely empty the bowel, a sensation of wanting to go but being unable to do so, bloating and gas.
UTIs are caused when bacteria enter and infect the urinary tract, bladder and/or urethra. Infection of the bladder, called cystitis, is caused by the bacteria E. coli, commonly found in the gastrointestinal tract. Women are particularly susceptible to developing cystitis because structurally the urethra and anus are close together, making it easy for bacteria to be transmitted between the two. Infection of the urethra, called urethritis, may also be caused by bacteria or by sexually transmitted diseases passed from the vagina to the urethra.
Symptoms of UTIs typically include pain or burning in the bladder or urethra during urination, a strong urge to urinate--accompanied by the ability to pass only very small amounts of urine, a feeling of pressure or fullness in the pubic area, cloudy or bloody (hematuria) urine, strong-smelling urine and bacteria in the urine. It is possible for some individuals to have a UTI and experience no symptoms at all. The presence of a fever usually indicates that the infection has progressed to the kidneys. A urinalysis is used to test for the presence of blood and bacteria in the urine to confirm a diagnosis. Antibiotics and analgesics (pain killers) are typically prescribed to cure the infection and relieve discomfort.
- Alimentary Pharmacology and Therapeutics; Physical and Psychological Co-morbidity in Irritable Bowel Syndrome: a Matched Cohort Study Using the General Practice Research Database; R. Jones et al.; August 2006
- National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse: IBS
- About IBS: IBS with Diarrhea