Do I need any tests for irritable bowel syndrome?
There is no test that confirms the diagnosis of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). A doctor can usually diagnose IBS from the typical symptoms. However, your doctor will check that there is nothing else going on. Usually this will include an examination of your tummy (abdomen) and some simple tests.
A blood test and stool (faeces) test are often taken to help rule out other conditions such as Crohn's disease, ulcerative colitis, coeliac disease, cancer of the ovary, or a gut infection. The symptoms of these other diseases can sometimes be confused with IBS. The tests that are often considered to rule out other conditions include:
- Full blood count (FBC) - to rule out lack of iron in the blood (anaemia), which is associated with various gut (bowel) disorders.
- Erythrocyte sedimentation rate (ESR) or C-reactive protein (CRP) - which can show if there is inflammation in the body (which does not occur with IBS).
- A blood test for coeliac disease.
- In women, a blood test to rule out cancer of the ovary, called CA 125.
- A stool test to look for a protein called faecal calprotectin. This may be present if you have Crohn's disease or ulcerative colitis, but is not present in IBS. A stool test may also be used to check whether you have any bleeding from your bowel.
More complicated tests such as gastroscopy or colonoscopy (to look into the bowel with a special telescope) are not usually needed. However, they may be done if symptoms are not typical, or if you develop symptoms of IBS in later life (over the age of about 50) when other conditions need to be ruled out.
Did you find this information useful?
- Irritable bowel syndrome in adults: diagnosis and management of irritable bowel syndrome in primary care; NICE Clinical Guideline (February 2008, updated April 2017)
- Irritable bowel syndrome; NICE CKS, February 2013 (UK access only)
- Ruepert L, Quartero AO, de Wit NJ, et al; Bulking agents, antispasmodics and antidepressants for the treatment of irritable bowel syndrome. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2011 Aug 10 (8):CD003460.
- Bohn L, Storsrud S, Liljebo T, et al; Diet low in FODMAPs reduces symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome as well as traditional dietary advice: a randomized controlled trial. Gastroenterology. 2015 Nov 149(6):1399-1407.e2. doi: 10.1053/j.gastro.2015.07.054. Epub 2015 Aug 5.
- Didari T, Mozaffari S, Nikfar S, et al; Effectiveness of probiotics in irritable bowel syndrome: Updated systematic review with meta-analysis. World J Gastroenterol. 2015 Mar 14 21(10):3072-84. doi: 10.3748/wjg.v21.i10.3072.