Gastroenterology & GI Surgery

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Jul 30, 2015

IBD vs. IBS: What's the Difference?

By Kanaaz Pereira, Connect Moderator, @kanaazpereira

Often, inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) is easily confused with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). Clinical manifestations of irritable bowel syndrome and inflammatory bowel disease can overlap. However, there are some clinical characteristics that can help differentiate between them:

  • IBD refers to the chronic swelling (inflammation) of the intestines. Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis are the two terms most often associated to the different types of IBD. Most people with IBS will not develop IBD, but irritable bowel syndrome symptoms can occur with increased frequency and severity in patients with chronic IBD.
  • IBS is not a disease, and it does not lead to colon cancer or bleeding. IBD, on the other hand, can put patients at risk for colon cancer, and bleeding is a common symptom. Watery diarrhea is common in both, but bloody diarrhea is consistent with IBD and does not occur in IBS.
  • Excess gas, bloating, heartburn are more likely to be due to IBS, rather than IBD.
  • IBS is characterized by a combination of abdominal pain, cramps, constipation, and may be relieved by a bowel movement. Abdominal pain due to IBD is often constant, in a specific location, and not relieved by a bowel movement.
  • Weight loss is common in active IBD, but is uncommon in IBS.

The facts above are by no means a complete list of signs and symptoms, but do give a general idea of the basic distinguishing factors between IBS and IBD.

For more information on IBD, visit

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