Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a highly prevalent functional bowel disorder routinely encountered by healthcare providers. Although not life-threatening, this chronic disorder reduces patients' quality of life and imposes a significant economic burden to the healthcare system. IBS is no longer considered a diagnosis of exclusion that can only be made after performing a battery of expensive diagnostic tests. Rather, IBS should be confidently diagnosed in the clinic at the time of the first visit using the Rome III criteria and a careful history and physical examination. Treatment options for IBS have increased in number in the past decade and clinicians should not be limited to using only fiber supplements and smooth muscle relaxants. Although all patients with IBS have symptoms of abdominal pain and disordered defecation, treatment needs to be individualized and should focus on the predominant symptom. This paper will review therapeutic options for the treatment of IBS using a tailored approach based on the predominant symptom. Abdominal pain, bloating, constipation and diarrhea are the four main symptoms that can be addressed using a combination of dietary interventions and medications. Treatment options include probiotics, antibiotics, tricyclic antidepressants, selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors and agents that modulate chloride channels and serotonin. Each class of agent will be reviewed using the latest data from the literature.
Keywords: abdominal pain; alosetron; bloating; constipation; diarrhea; irritable bowel syndrome; lubiprostone; probiotics; tegaserod; tricyclic antidepressants.