Difference Between IBD and IBS

Main Difference – IBD vs IBS

Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) and Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) are two medical conditions related to the gastrointestinal system, particularly affecting the intestinal part of it. The main difference between IBD and IBS is that IBD is  a chronic inflammatory condition whereas IBS is a non-inflammatory type of disease. However, these two terms are used interchangeably, most probably due to lack of knowledge and poor diagnosis of certain features characteristically owned by each type.

This article covers,

  1. What is IBD? – Clinical Features, Causes, Signs and Symptoms, Diagnosis, Treatment
  2. What is IBS? – Clinical Features, Causes, Signs and Symptoms, Diagnosis, Treatment
  3. What is the difference between IBD and IBS?Difference Between IBD and IBS - IBD vs IBS Comparison Summary

What is IBD

Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) is an ongoing inflammatory condition which affects the intestines. It has 3 subtypes known as Crohn’s disease, Ulcerative colitis, and indeterminate colitis. Diseased intestines will be swollen, reddened and less functional, resulting in a reduction of the overall effectiveness of digestion.

Ulcerative colitis is known only to affect the colon or large intestine whereas Crohn’s disease can affect almost every part of the digestive system varying from mouth to the anus. If these subtypes cannot be identified properly, then it is called the 3rd type known as indeterminate colitis.

Additionally, there is a rare 4th type of IBD known as microscopic colitis, where the inflammatory signs can only be revealed by microscopic studies.

Even though the exact etiology of IBD is not yet known, autoimmune conditions and genetic predisposition are known to play a major role. With an equal distribution in both females and males, this condition mostly affects people late teens and early 20s.

Patients with IBD will generally experience pain, swelling, cramping of the abdomen, recurrent episodes of bloody diarrhea, weight loss, and easy fatigability. Some people may also complain of high fever, vomitting and signs of anemia like pallor and shortness of breath due to the chronic blood loss particularly seen inCrohn’s disease. IBD can also give rise to extraintestinal manifestations such as joint pain and reddening of the eye.

Most importantly, the signs and symptoms owned by IBD will come and go from time to time, and they will have long symptom-free periods known as remissions. these features also tend to peak up at certain points, giving rise to severe discomfort with what is referred to as Flare-ups.

Patients who go through frequent episodes of these signs and symptoms will have to seek medical advice. These conditions will be diagnosed by a complete history from the patient and a thorough physical examination followed by imaging studies such as CT and MRI. Some patients might have to get a biopsy done to rule out malignancies.

The hallmark of the treatment for IBD includes the symptomatic management and prevention of relapses or returns. Aminosalicylates, Corticosteroids, and immunosuppressants are the commonest drugs used.

However, patients who do not respond to pharmacological management will have to be treated surgically where the affected part of the intestines will be surgically removed.

Main Difference - IBD vs IBS

Schematic of patterns of disease in Crohn’s disease

What is IBS

Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is defined as a functional disorder which is caused without any identifiable etiology and characterized by vague gastrointestinal symptoms such as abdominal pain, cramps, constipation, and diarrhea. These patients will also complain of increased frequency of loose stools normal in volume, yet associated with a pain in the right lower abdomen.

Some patients will also complain of chronic constipation and severe pain. Depending on the predominance of symptoms, IBS can be categorized as constipation-predominant, diarrhea-predominant, or pain-predominant.

One notable and characteristic feature of IBS include the relationship it has with stress; acute stressful events often result in the exacerbation of symptoms associated with IBS.

Being a clinical diagnosis made by a complete history and examination, followed by the exclusion of other similar diseases, IBS is often treated with lifestyle modifications including dietary changes where patients should know how to avoid food which aggravates their symptoms.

Severe symptoms and signs of IBS might need pharmacological therapy including intestinal antispasmodics like Hyoscyamine or dicyclomine HCL.

Practicing yoga and meditation for stress relief might also be helpful, depending on the etiology of patients.Difference Between IBD and IBS

Difference Between IBD and IBS


IBD is a condition characterized by inflammation of the intestinal system.

IBS is not certainly a true disease, but a functional disorder presenting with vague GI symptoms such as abdominal pain, vomiting, and cramping.


Patients with IBD can also have extraintestinal manifestations in addition to abdominal pain, cramping, rectal bleeding, etc. unlike IBS in which features are only distributed in the area of intestines. However, some patients with IBS can experience weight loss because of the mal-absorption and avoidance of food due to possible exacerbation of symptoms following food.


Treatment for both these conditions are the same, but IBD is mainly treated with anti-inflammatory medications since the pathology is related to long-term inflammation unlike in IBS.


Patients with IBD might have to undergo surgery, if the disease doesn’t respond well to medication.

IBS doesn’t need such interventions.

Image Courtesy:

“Symptoms-stomach-pain” By CDC  (Public Domain) via Commons Wikimedia

“Patterns of Crohn’s Disease” By Samir, vectorized by Fvasconcellos – w:Image:Patterns of CD.jpg, (CC BY-SA 3.0) via Commons Wikimedia

About the Author: Embogama

Embogama is a passionate freelance writer for several years. Her areas of interest include general medicine, clinical medicine, health and fitness, Ayurveda medicine, psychology, counseling and piano music