Thought I’d write a brief guide to the different types of IBS, as this can be a confusing subject when you are first diagnosed. It really doesn’t need to be though, so let’s make this as simple as possible.
There are basically three main types of IBS. Firstly, there’s diarrhea-predominant IBS, which, you will be astounded to learn, means that you suffer predominantly from diarrhea. It doesn’t mean though that you won’t have any other symptoms. You may well have pain, discomfort, bloating, or nausea alongside the diarrhea. It does mean though that you will have more diarrhea than constipation. It is often referred to as IBS-D.
Then there is constipation-predominant IBS, which is just the opposite of IBS-D, ie: more constipation than diarrhea. This is called IBS-C.
The third group is sometimes called alternating IBS and sometimes called mixed IBS, and means that you suffer from alternating diarrhea and constipation. This is sometimes referred to as IBS-A.
I occasionally see people refer to IBS-P on messageboards, with the P standing for pain, because they feel that pain is their predominant symptom, but this term isn’t really used beyond the web as far as I’m aware.
There are more IBS-D sufferers than IBS-C or IBS-A sufferers, which is probably why IBS is often more famous for its diarrhea than any of the other symptoms. The ratios are sometimes quoted as about two IBS-D sufferers for every one IBS-C or IBS-A sufferer.
And that’s really all there is to it! IBS classifications are not an exact science, and sometimes people can switch between categories over time, but I expect that most of you reading this will know what category you fit into, either because you’ve been told by a doctor or just because it’s pretty obvious.
There is one IBS sub-category that I should probably mention here – sometimes doctors refer to post-infectious IBS, which means IBS that occurred after an infection such as food poisoning. But that tends to be the only subgroup that gets singled out.
Things do get more confused when doctors (or often patients themselves) start labeling sufferers as having mild, moderate or severe IBS, as these labels are completely subjective, and I’ve never seen any criteria at all to suggest what the differences between mild, moderate and severe IBS might be, so I would take these labels with a pinch of salt. But it doesn’t mean to say they can’t be useful.
So – what kind of IBS do you have? My name is Sophie, and I have IBS-C, and it can be mild, moderate or severe, according to my own personal criteria and the kind of day I’m having!