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New Blood Tests Help Diagnose Irritable Bowel Syndrome

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Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is an uncomfortable condition, to say the least. But the road to recovery starts with diagnosis, and that could soon become easier with the introduction of a simple blood test.

IBS is often associated with cramping, abdominal pain, bloating, gas, diarrhea, and constipation. It’s estimated that between 10 and 15 per cent of the population has the condition. However, the American College of Gastroenterologists estimates that only about half of those people have actually been diagnosed with the syndrome.

In the past, there was no easy way to determine if someone was suffering from a temporary condition – like the stomach flu – or IBS. But a recent study suggests that a simple blood test could make a world of difference.

The study involved just under 3,000 participants, some of whom had previously been diagnosed with IBS. The participants were then given blood tests, which showed that two antibodies could be directly linked to the condition. In roughly 92 per cent of cases this proved an accurate way to show that someone had IBS. Researchers also discovered that the test could be used to differentiate between IBS and the more serious irritable bowel disease, which includes Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis – conditions that involve chronic inflammation of the digestive system.

Dr. Mark Pimental, a gastroenterologist with the Cedars-Sinai Health System’s GI Motility Program and Laboratory, is excited about the news. He sees it as a way to accelerate treatment and help a patient feel better, sooner. “We now have a test to say, you have a disease,” Pimental said. “Having a test like this shortens the time of suffering, it shortens the time of investigation and accelerates getting the patient directly to treatment.”

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