Because treatment of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) patients can be frustrating to the clinician and patient as well, the physician should strive to gain the patient’s confidence with a concise, appropriate work-up and by offering reassurance and education that IBS is a functional disorder without significant long-term health risks.
First-line treatment should be aimed at treating the most bothersome symptom.
Tricyclic antidepressants are superior to placebo in reducing abdominal pain scores, as well as improving global symptom severity [1••].
Loperamide is superior to placebo in managing IBS-associated diarrhea [2••].
Whereas fiber has a role in treating constipation, its value for IBS or, specifically, in the relief of abdominal pain or diarrhea associated with IBS is controversial [2••].
Although certain antispasmodics have demonstrated superiority over placebo in managing abdominal pain, none of these agents are available in the United States [3••].
Probiotic therapy using Lactobacillus plantarum has demonstrated superiority to placebo in improving pain, regulating bowel habits, and decreasing flatulence .
As studied in a recent placebo-controlled prospective study, Chinese herbal medicines significantly improved bowel symptom scores and global symptom profile, and reduced IBS-related quality of life impairment .
Some of the most promising emerging therapies in IBS revolve around targeted pharmacotherapeutic modulation of serotonin receptors (ie, 5-HT3 and 5-HT4 subtypes), which are involved in sensory and motor functions of the gut. Other investigational agents that are also being explored include cholecystokinin antagonists, α2-adrenergic agonists (eg, clonidine), serotonin reuptake inhibitors (eg, citalopram), and neurokinin antagonists .
IBS is best understood through the biopsychosocial paradigm, and therefore, its effective management requires a comprehensive multidisciplinary approach based on patient education and reassurance, enhanced by diet recommendations and lifestyle modifications, and complemented by pharmacotherapy and psychosocial intervention in more severe cases.
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