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There are no specific tests for IBS, as it does not cause any obvious detectable abnormalities in your digestive system.
In most cases, a diagnosis will be based on whether you have typical symptoms of IBS.
Your GP will consider assessing you for IBS if you have had any of the following symptoms for at least six months:
A diagnosis of IBS will then be considered if you have stomach pain or discomfort that is either relieved by passing stools, or is associated with a need to go to the toilet frequently or a change in the consistency of your stools.
This should be accompanied by at least two of the following four symptoms:
Many cases of IBS can be diagnosed based on your symptoms alone, although sometimes further tests may be needed to check for other possible causes.
For example, your GP may arrange blood tests to rule out other conditions that cause similar symptoms, such as an infection or coeliac disease (a digestive condition where a person has an adverse reaction to gluten).
A sample of your stools will also often be tested for the presence of a substance called calprotectin. This substance is produced by the gut when it is inflamed, and its presence in your stools could mean your symptoms are being caused by inflammatory bowel disease (IBD).
Further tests will be needed when you have certain "red flag" symptoms that indicate you may have a potentially more serious condition, such as cancer. These symptoms include:
Further testing may also be recommended if you have a family history of bowel cancer or ovarian cancer, or if you are over 60 years of age and have had a change in your bowel habits that has lasted for more than six weeks.
In these cases, your doctor may recommend having a colonoscopy to check for abnormalities in your gut. This is where your rectum and large bowel (colon) are examined using an endoscope, which is inserted into your rectum.