Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a disorder that affects the large intestine. It can be extremely painful with symptoms like cramping, bloating, or constipation. In more mild cases, an urgent care visit may be suitable for your IBS. If you feel as though you are experiencing a medical emergency, make sure to call 911.
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Should I Go to Urgent Care for IBS?
On a day-to-day basis, someone with IBS may experience discomfort and pain. Typically, symptoms will relieve themselves or with over-the-counter treatment. If your pain becomes out of the ordinary or is accompanied by other concerning symptoms, you may consider seeking medical attention.
Visiting Urgent Care for IBS
Urgent care centers are equipped to deal with the unpredictable nature of IBS and offer affordable walk-in options for many people. Visiting an urgent care center can be a good option if you feel the mild effects of IBS and are looking for a quick solution for your needs. This may feel like cramping, bloating, constipation, or any other symptoms.
At your visit, you may be provided with anti-diarrheal, anticholinergic, or antibiotic medications depending on your needs. Prescription medications can get expensive at times and prevent you from getting the care you need. With a Mira membership, you can save up to 80% off on any IBS medications you may be prescribed for only $45 per month.
It’s important to be upfront with your healthcare professional about your symptoms to get the proper care you need.
Visiting a Gastroenterologist or Primary Care Physician for IBS
If you have not been diagnosed with IBS but believe you are experiencing some symptoms, it may be time to reach out to your primary care physician (PCP). From there, after a consultation, your doctor may encourage you to see a specialist if signs point to having a gastrointestinal problem. You typically won’t visit a PCP for IBS symptoms, as this is not their expertise.
Your PCP may refer you to a gastroenterologist, a doctor specializing in problems of the digestive system. At your first consultation, you will likely be asked about your symptoms, family history, and other efforts you have made to relieve your pain. A physical examination will be done, and the doctor may prescribe you medication to manage your symptoms or suggest lifestyle changes. If you experience a difference in your symptoms, you might want to schedule another appointment with your gastroenterologist (as long as the pain is manageable). They may run tests and perform procedures like an enema, colonoscopy, or endoscopy.
Visiting the Emergency Room for IBS
There may be times when your symptoms are best suited for an emergency room rather than urgent care. For example, if the pain you are experiencing is so severe that you cannot stand or sit up, your problem is better suited for an emergency room. If you have just had abdominal surgery, like removing your appendix, you would want to visit the ER if you experience any pain after surgery.
Finally, if you are experiencing abdominal pain in conjunction with any of the following severe symptoms, make sure to visit an ER instead of your local urgent care center, as your condition could be dangerous:
- Chest pain
- Uncontrollable vomiting
- Fever over 102 degrees
- Vomiting blood
- Blood in the stool or urine
- Shortness of breath
- Loss of consciousness
In emergency situations, you should call 911 or go immediately to the emergency room. Don’t take the chance of going to urgent care if you believe you are facing a medical emergency. On the other hand, if your condition is not life-threatening, it’s wise to visit an urgent care center instead of taking space away from other people in critical condition.
What is IBS?
Irritable bowel syndrome is a common gastrointestinal condition affecting up to 15 percent of the U.S. population. It results from the gut-brain interaction and affects how your digestive system reacts to food and how your bowel muscles contract. Most people with IBS can manage their pain through lifestyle and diet, although some require medication and other interventions. IBS can be further split into three different categories:
- IBS with constipation (IBS-C)
- IBS with diarrhea (IBS-D)
- IBS with mixed-bowel habits (IBS-M)
Different treatments are associated with each kind of IBS, so it’s essential to understand which symptoms best describe what you are experiencing.
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Causes of IBS
It is not entirely known what causes IBS. Many factors may lead to the onset of the condition, including stress and poor diet. Other possible causes may include:
- Problems with GI muscle contractions
- Infection (like gastroenteritis)
- Changes in gut microbes
- Extra-sensitive nerves in the gut
Many people with IBS have triggers that can make their pain worse at times. Common triggers include food, stress, and medication. By recognizing your triggers and avoiding them, you can prevent unwanted pain and discomfort.
Signs and Symptoms
People with IBS may experience all kinds of symptoms, which will differ depending on the type of IBS they have. Some common symptoms of IBS include:
- Irregular bowel movements- harder or softer than usual
- Abdominal pain
- Excess gas
- Mucus in stool
- Increased/decreased bowel movements
IBS Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
If you have been experiencing symptoms of IBS or have recently been diagnosed, you may have unanswered questions about your condition. Read below to learn more about this abdominal disorder.
What foods can trigger IBS?
Each person who suffers from IBS is different and therefore is affected differently by food. However, there are common food triggers that can increase bloating and uncomfortable bowel movements. The following are foods that can increase the chances of an IBS flare-up:
- Fried foods
- Insoluble fiber
- Caffeinated drinks
- And more
Are there risk factors for IBS?
Yes, certain factors can increase one’s chances of developing IBS. It is a condition more common in those under the age of 50. In the U.S., women are at a higher risk as well. People with a family history of IBS are more likely to develop the condition as well. Finally, those diagnosed with anxiety or depression are at higher risk for IBS because of the gut-brain interaction.
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Does IBS go away?
Because IBS is a chronic condition, it may never go away completely. However, it can be managed relatively well through medication, diet, and other lifestyle changes. Speak with your gastroenterologist about how you can reduce your chances of having an IBS attack.
Is exercise good for IBS?
Many physicians recommend regular physical activity to help manage symptoms of IBS. Exercise can decrease bloating, minimize your stress, improve sleep patterns, and encourage regular bowel movements. If you plan on trying out exercising to reduce your symptoms, try low-intensity exercises like walking or yoga. Activities like running or interval training may increase your chances of flare-ups.
Does insurance cover IBS treatment?
Many major health insurance plans will cover the cost of visiting a gastroenterologist. There may be co-pays or coinsurance associated with your visits. You may also face higher costs if you have any procedures done or are prescribed any medications. Speak with your doctor before your visit to get an idea of what the fees will look like and if your insurance will cover most of them.
How can I improve my gut health?
There are many foods and supplements you can incorporate into your diet to improve the health of your gut. In addition to regular exercise, health professionals recommend prioritizing good sleep (seven to eight hours each night). Good sleep and taking time to relax will help reduce stress, which can cause issues in your gut. Fruits, vegetables, protein, and fat are all essential foods for a healthy diet. Adding good bacteria to your gut can be beneficial as well, so consider adding probiotics to your diet as well.
Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a condition that affects many in the United States. Those with IBS may face symptoms of abdominal pain, constipation, bloating, and more. If you are experiencing a flare-up, you may visit an urgent care center for medication or treatment. In emergency situations, calling 911 or visiting an ER may be a better option. You can learn to manage your IBS by focusing on exercise, good sleep, and avoiding IBS food triggers.
Prescription medications can become very expensive, especially without help from insurance. If your doctor has prescribed medication for your IBS symptoms, Mira can get it to you at a more affordable cost. For only $45 a month, Mira members receive up to 80% off over 1000 different prescription medications, low-cost urgent care visits, and same-day lab testing. Don’t let the cost bring you any more pain; sign up for Mira today.
Talor graduated from Penn State University with a B.S. in Biobehavioral Health, and minors in Spanish and Diversity & Inclusion in May of 2022. She has a passion for health equity and diversity in health. In the future, Talor hopes to work in public health policy reform to help eliminate health disparities. She enjoys reading, cooking, and listening to podcasts in her free time.