Spastic colon is an old-fashioned name for irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). The term spastic colon describes the fact that IBS sufferers often experience spasms within their intestines, as well as faster or slower motility within the intestines than normal (ie, food goes through too fast or too slow, giving us diarrhea or constipation respectively). Other symptoms of a spastic colon include mild to severe abdominal pain, nausea and bloating.
The name spastic colon was used quite widely to describe IBS until relatively recently, and the names spastic bowel, nervous colon and spastic colitis were also used, although it should be noted that spastic colitis was a rather misleading term as colitis involves inflammation of the gut as a symptom, and IBS does not cause inflammation.
Did you know? John F Kennedy was diagnosed with 'severe spastic colitis' and suffered badly from diarrhea, including one particularly harsh attack during the Bay of Pigs invasion.
Do I have a spastic colon or IBS?
Your doctor, if (s)he is even remotely up-to-date about these things, will probably have diagnosed you with IBS rather than a spastic colon. However, some medical terms take a while to die out, and unfortunately some really rather inappropriate and even insulting names sometimes get attached to illnesses and are difficult to get rid of (the term 'Yuppie flu' for chronic fatigue syndrome comes to mind - what an awful name that was).
If you doctor did say you have a spastic colon though there's no need to worry, it is still irritable bowel syndrome, and patients who may have been diagnosed with spastic colon 20 or 30 years ago don't need to worry that they've suddenly got two disorders rather than one if a new doctor switches to calling it IBS.
Spastic colon on IBS Tales
A number of sufferers who have sent in their stories to IBS Tales mention the term spastic colon, and you can tell from their stories that it is a term that is now dying out. Ann says that her mum used to call her symptoms spastic colon, and another sufferer says he was diagnosed 30 years ago, when 'no-one had a clue about IBS and used to call it spastic colon or nervous stomach'.
Spastic colon or IBS - which do you prefer?
I've never much liked the term 'irritable bowel syndrome' to be honest, mainly because it sounds like I have a mildly annoying condition like a bit of a cough, rather than something that leaves me bent over in agony. On the other hand, I'm not too fond of the old spastic colon either, so I'm not really sure whether we gained or lost from the name change. I sometimes fancy something much more dignified, perhaps named after a serious-sounding doctor who researched the disorder, Schoding's Syndrome or similar (I just made that up by the way, there's no Dr Schoding). But still, we're stuck with it now - and at least IBS is easy to spell.
Spastic Colon Tales Homepage (doesn't have quite the same ring to it, does it?!)