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How Long Does IBS Last?

Written by Beth Holloway, RN, M.Ed

Does IBS go away? How long does IBS last? Those are good questions. Anyone who has IBS or thinks they have it, wants those answers. In fact, those are questions people have for most any medical problem. But, the answers to the questions, as for most conditions, aren’t simple.

IBS Symptoms

First, what are the symptoms of IBS? The symptoms of IBS are similar to many other gastrointestinal (GI) conditions. The GI symptoms of IBS are: constipation, diarrhea, gas, bloating, and abdominal discomfort or pain. It is also common to have underlying psychological symptoms, like anxious or depressed feelings, with the GI symptoms. 

Serious GI symptoms

A person may have symptoms that they think are IBS, but they may mean something more serious.

Symptoms, like those described for IBS (above), with any of the following, may mean there is a serious problem: low iron in the blood (anemia), blood in the stool, weight loss, a fever, a family history of colorectal cancer or inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), or symptoms that started after age 50. The person should contact their doctor for an appointment.

IBS Diagnosis

Many doctors find it challenging to diagnose IBS. This is partly because of the characteristics of the condition: 

  • Symptoms often change over time - this may be from day-to-day or they may get better for a while and then get worse. 

  • Symptoms are similar to other GI disorders. This also makes it hard to diagnose.

  • Symptoms vary from person-to-person. They may range from mild to disabling.

  • There are no diagnostic tests for IBS - no lab test, no imaging, no other type of test. 

Doctors use the Rome IV criteria to help diagnose. It is very specific and means a person has had recurring abdominal pain at least once a week in the last three months.

The pain is associated with at least two of these criteria:

  1. The pain is related to bowel movements

  2. The bowel movements occur more or less often than usual

  3. The stool is different than usual (harder, softer)

When making an IBS diagnosis with this criteria, doctors also include the length of time a person has had symptoms before IBS was diagnosed - in this case at least six months. So...

How Long Does Irritable Bowel Syndrome Last?

1 year after diagnosis, over 30% of people have long symptom-free periods; after 10 years, over 50% of people have lasting symptoms. IBS can be treated, as described below.

That said, there isn’t an exact answer. IBS usually changes over time-there may be long periods without symptoms, but they often return.

How Long Does an IBS Flare-Up Last?

The length of IBS flare-ups vary. They may last for days or weeks and your symptoms may change during the flare.

IBS Treatment

Symptoms of IBS may or may not go away, however treatment can help lessen the symptoms. Therapies may include medicines and supplements, changes to the diet, mind and body techniques, and even exercise. Goodpath offers all of these in our IBS program.

Related article:Do I Have IBS-C?

The Bottom Line

If you think you have IBS, we’ll help you figure out if your symptoms actually are IBS. Complete our assessment and we’ll provide you with answers and a personalized program to help lessen your symptoms. 

Or, if your doctor told you that you have IBS, you can also complete our assessment and we’ll provide a customized program to help lessen your symptoms.

If you want more information about IBS, Goodpath has it. Please go to our “Learn Center” for IBS information from our medical team.