Update on Irritable Bowel Syndrome and Gender Differences

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Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a chronic functional GI disorder characterized by abdominal pain associated with alterations in defecation or stool frequency and consistency. In Western industrialized countries, women seek health care services for their symptoms more frequently than men. The cause of IBS is likely multifactorial involving altered motility, visceral hypersensitivity, and dysregulation of the autonomic nervous system. Many patients note that their symptoms are exacerbated by diet and stress, and women frequently report menstrual cycle fluctuations in symptoms. Current approaches to IBS management include behavioral management therapies such as dietary intake changes and stress reduction cognitive restructuring. Drug therapies are targeted at altering pain sensitivity, motility, and secretion. This review provides an overview of the pathogenesis of IBS, factors that contribute to gender differences, and current therapeutic approaches for symptom management.

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