Long-term Complications of IBS

Monday 21 June 2021
IBS
4 minute(s) read

Table of Contents


I. Mood Disorders & Psychological Complications

II. Physical Complications of IBS

a. Impacted Bowel

b. Food Intolerance & Malnourishment

c. Hemorrhoids

d. Anal Fissures

e. Rectal Prolapse

f. Pregnancy Complications

III. What’s the Outlook? 


Mood Disorders & Psychological Complications

Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) flare-ups can occur suddenly and without warning. IBS can also cause constipation one moment and diarrhea the next. The volatile nature of this condition can disrupt your daily routine and subsequently decrease your quality of life. Not knowing when a flare-up will occur can lead to a constant feeling of stress. This feeling often stems from a loss of control, which is why it’s common for IBS patients to find themselves anxious or depressed. [1]

Depression and anxiety are psychological conditions that should not be neglected. Long-term depression has serious health implications, including memory loss, insomnia, and heart attack. [2] Your brain also communicates with your gut, which means that the stress you think is confined to your brain can affect your bowels, worsening your IBS symptoms. [3] If you feel IBS is affecting your mood, talk to your doctor today. IBS medications like Xifaxan (rifaximin) or lubiprostone can reduce IBS symptoms and help improve your mental health.

a man holding a cloudy beverage

Physical Complications of IBS

a. Impacted Bowel

Untreated IBS may cause prolonged periods of constipation. Being constipated for too long can cause blocked stool to harden and pack tightly in the colon. This is known as an impacted bowel or a fecal impaction. With this complication, the stool will be unable to move forward, and symptoms like headache and nausea may occur. If your IBS causes constipation and you suspect an impacted bowel may be causing problems, contact your doctor. Medical attention is sometimes necessary to manually remove the impacted stool. [1] [2] 

b. Food Intolerance & Malnourishment

Another long-term IBS complication is food intolerance. People with IBS often need to cut out foods that trigger their symptoms. It is common for IBS patients to keep a journal detailing the foods and beverages that cause IBS flare-ups. Keeping this journal can help your doctor better understand your condition. Some common triggers for IBS are citrus fruits, dairy, wheat, and coffee. Fats and sugars have also been known to worsen diarrhea.

A closely related complication to food intolerance is malnourishment. A healthy diet consists of a wide variety of foods that supply the body with different nutrients. By being forced to cut out various foods, IBS patients may find that they aren’t getting all the nutrients they need. The good news is that malnourishment isn’t too serious if it is addressed promptly. If you feel like your food intolerance is causing you malnourishment, talk to a dietician to figure out a way to avoid triggers while ensuring a nutritious diet. [1] [4]

c. Hemorrhoids

Hemorrhoids are swollen blood vessels around the anus that can cause symptoms of inflammation and pain when the stool comes out. If these swollen blood vessels are excessively inflamed, rectal bleeding can occur. Hemorrhoids are usually caused by the pushing and straining that occurs with constipation. Keeping the area around the anus clean can help prevent hemorrhoids from recurring. [5]

an empty toilet paper roll on its dispenser

d. Anal Fissures

Small tears in the anus can occur from difficult bowel movements. These small tears are known as anal fissures. In IBS patients who have persistent constipation, anal fissures may heal very slowly. Anal fissures can result in symptoms like pain, rectal bleeding, and severe itching. [5]

e. Rectal Prolapse

Irritable bowel syndrome can cause a rare but uncomfortable complication called rectal prolapse. This condition occurs when the rectum’s attachment to the inside of the body weakens, causing the rectum to turn inside out and exit the anus. This condition may sound life-threatening, but it is rarely an emergency medical situation. Still, rectal prolapse can impact your quality of life. [6]

f. Pregnancy Complications

Women who are pregnant and have IBS may experience increased digestive issues. A baby can physically strain the bowel and put pressure on the bowel walls. Expecting mothers also commonly choose to pause IBS treatment, which can be better for the baby. But this can cause further indigestion, heartburn, and other IBS symptoms.

a pregnant woman

Additionally, the hormonal changes that occur during pregnancy can worsen IBS symptoms. Pregnant women with IBS should consult their doctor about ways to reduce symptoms while keeping both the mother’s and baby’s health a priority. [1]

What’s the Outlook?

The severity of symptoms will vary for different people with IBS. Generally, being educated about this condition and being proactive about your digestive and bowel health can go a long way in keeping IBS manageable. Avoiding triggers, keeping the immune system healthy, and relieving symptoms with treatments for IBS can help keep IBS complications at bay.

The content in this article is intended for informational purposes only. This website does not provide medical advice. In all circumstances, you should always seek the advice of your physician and/or other qualified health professionals(s) for drug, medical condition, or treatment advice. The content provided on this website is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment.