An IBS flare or attack is no picnic and can last for many days.
“Some attacks can last for a few hours, some days,” says Michael Blume, MD, a gastroenterologist at MedStar Good Samaritan Hospital, Baltimore.
Dr. Blume continues, “IBS attacks can be of variable duration and are different from person to person.”
Irritable bowel syndrome should be diagnosed only when all other possible causes have been ruled out.
“IBS is not an all or nothing disorder,” says Dr. Blume. “Some people have very mild symptoms, some very disabling symptoms. Many people with mild or sporadic symptoms do not even seek medical attention.”
They may simply attribute their symptoms to something they ate or stress.
Symptom Range Varies with IBS: Sporadically to Days on End
“The same goes for duration of symptoms,” says Dr. Blume. “There are some people who have very sporadic symptoms that last for a short period of time. Other people have constant symptoms, and there is everything in between.
“A person with symptoms occurring infrequently and for short durations may choose to treat their symptoms with episodic therapy, if they choose to treat the symptoms at all.
“Someone with frequent or long-lasting symptoms may benefit from taking medications on a regular basis.
“We tend to use symptom duration and symptom frequency to help make decisions as to how to best treat these symptoms.
“It is also important to remember that IBS is not a medically dangerous condition, although it can be at times quite painful, and often socially incapacitating.
“A decision to treat these symptoms at all should depend on how much these symptoms are bothering that person, and how much it impacts quality of life.”
So as far as duration (days, weeks, months), irritable bowel syndrome is a no-size-fits-all condition.
In practice for 20+ years, Dr. Blume treats over 65 conditions including abdominal pain, appetite loss, blood in stool, celiac disease, colon cancer, esophageal and liver disease, gas and IBS.
Lorra Garrick has been covering medical, fitness and cybersecurity topics for many years, having written thousands of articles for print magazines and websites, including as a ghostwriter. She’s also a former ACE-certified personal trainer.