IBD vs IBS: What's the Difference?

IBD vs IBS. Are they really one in the same? Although they start with the same letters, IBD and IBS are actually two different conditions. Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) is classified as a functional gastrointestinal disorder or syndrome, while Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) is actually classified as a disease.

Reading the Right Signs

The reason why many people confuse IBD and IBS is because both conditions have similar warning signs and symptoms. However, it is important to recognize what the differences are in order to find an appropriate treatment.

IBS: The symptoms of IBS include abdominal pain, diarrhea, constipation, cramping, bloating and gas. Although these are symptoms anyone might experience on occasion, a person with IBS can experience an exceptional amount of discomfort and distress, hindering their daily life.

IBD: The symptoms of IBD can be a bit more serious. For starters, rectal bleeding is an indicator of IBD. Unlike IBS, bleeding and weight loss may occur in addition to the abdominal pains and diarrhea. Permanent harm and damage on the intestines are the risks at stake. IBD has also been connected to iron deficiency due to blood loss.

One of the most obvious differences between the two conditions is noticeable when examining the colon. The colon of a patient with IBS shows no abnormalities. Although the digestive tract appears normal, it actually fails to function properly. A person suffering from IBD, however, suffers from a more damaged digestive system. The intestines are in fact inflamed in IBD, hence the term “inflammatory,” and abnormalities are present in a colonoscopy or x-ray.

Also Know As…AKA

IBS is also known as spastic colon (spastic colitis), spastic bowel, or mucous colitis. These names are related to the way the intestines “act up”, “become spastic” and digest substances improperly.

IBD, on the other hand, consists of two different conditions: Ulcerative Colitis (UC) and Crohn’s Disease (CD). Ulcerative Colitis is a chronic disease of the large intestine, identified when inflammation occurs and tiny open sores, or ulcers, form on the surface of the colon. This results in bleeding and mucus.  Crohn’s disease is also an ongoing condition that causes inflammation of the digestive tract, involving any area of the gastrointestinal tract, but most commonly the small intestine and the colon. The key differences between the two IBD disorders are location and the severity of inflammation.

Unfortunately, there are mixed views on what causes IBD, and the causes of IBS are still not fully understood. Some blame IBD on genetics, while others believe stress is the cause for IBS. Nonetheless, a definitive cure does not exist for either condition.