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IBS Test: Do You Have IBS Symptoms? Take This Quiz

Dr. med. André Sommer

Dr. med. André Sommer

Do you have digestive problems? Take our test and see if you might have IBS. Read about the IBS tests your physician may run below.

Get a free individual evaluation at the end.

How do irritable bowel syndrome tests work?

Many people with bowel concerns wonder if they have irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). The symptoms may be pointing toward IBS, but an IBS diagnosis can only be confirmed by extensive tests as part of an irritable bowel diagnostic investigation carried out by a gastrointestinal specialist.

A diagnosis based on self-tests could be dangerous because a gastrointestinal specialist can rule out other potential conditions, which might even be life-threatening, like colorectal cancer. Ruling out some of these serious conditions might require lab work ordered by a healthcare provider.

If you do have IBS and a diagnosis is confirmed,** **irritable bowel tests help determine the course and severity of the condition. During therapy, irritable bowel tests provide information about the success of the treatment.

What irritable bowel tests exist?

The following two IBS tests are well-known and approved:

  1. Disease severity: IBS Severity Scoring System (IBS-SSS), a questionnaire to record the severity of IBS
  2. Reduction of quality of life: Irritable Bowel Syndrome Quality of Life (IBS-QOL), a test to assess the quality of life with IBS

Which test measures the IBS severity?

The IBS-SSS is a frequently used test that measures the severity of the disease in people with irritable bowel syndrome. It was validated in English in 1997 and in German in 2013 in a larger group of people. It has since been used in several medical studies and in everyday clinical practice. In the test, the healthcare provider and patient assess abdominal pain, bloating, abdominal distension, bowel habits, well-being and quality of life.

  1. In the** first part **of the test, the severity of symptoms is assessed using questions and visual scales. 500 is the total possible score.
  2. The second part** **of the test asks for more information about the symptoms, like stool frequency, the texture and consistency of the stool and the location of the abdominal pain. One question aims to establish the relationship between abdominal pain and bowel movements. The last question is related to global well-being and quality of life. The responses of the second part of the questionnaire are not taken into account into the score.

The test result is a score that indicates the severity of the IBS symptoms. The IBS-SSS takes a total of about five minutes.

How is IBS severity tested?

Here are a few modified example questions:

Test questions for abdominal pain

  • Do you currently have abdominal pain? (Yes / No)
  • How severe is your abdominal pain on a scale from 0 to 10? (0 = no pain, 10 = extremely severe pain)
  • How many days in the last 10 days have you had abdominal pain?

Test questions for bloated stomach and flatulence

  • Do you currently have abdominal bloating or flatulence? (Yes / No)
  • How pronounced is the bloated abdomen on a scale from 0 to 10?

Test question for bowel habits

  • How satisfied are you with your bowel movements on a scale from 0 to 10? (0 = very satisfied, 10 = very unsatisfied)

Test question for quality of life

  • How much do your IBS symptoms impair your quality of life from 0 to 10?

Which test measures the quality of life in IBS patients?

The IBS-QOL is a test that IBS patients can use to self-report and measure their quality of life. It takes about ten minutes and has been translated into different languages. The test consists of 34 questions, each with a five-point response scale, and provides a score that shows the quality of life of those with IBS. A high test result indicates a good quality of life, and a low score indicates a low quality of life.

How exactly is quality of life measured in those with IBS?

Different tests and questionnaires are used to measure the severity of IBS. These give the healthcare provider and patient feedback a tool to use for objective symptom measurement. Quality of life plays a special role in chronic diseases like IBS, since the syndrome can have a negative impact on many areas of life. They usually assess different areas like dissatisfaction, body image and health concerns, nutrition and food avoidance, social interactions, relationships, and activity impairment.

If several of the following questions apply to you, your quality of life may beimpaired due to digestive problems. The questions are a modified excerpt from the IBS-QOL:

  1. I feel helpless and vulnerable due to my bowel discomforts.
  2. It bothers me how often I have to go to the bathroom.
  3. I feel uncomfortable in my body because of bowel discomforts.
  4. I feel isolated and lonely because of my bowel discomforts.
  5. I can’t really enjoy life because of my bowel discomforts.
  6. I'm losing control of my life because of my bowel discomforts.
  7. I find it difficult to talk about my bowel discomforts.
  8. I have to be careful what and how much I eat because of my digestive discomforts.
  9. My sex life suffers because of my bowel discomforts.
  10. I am afraid to burden my friends, family, or coworkers with my bowel discomforts.
  11. I am afraid that my bowel discomforts will worsen.
  12. My bowel discomforts limit what I can wear.
  13. I have the impression that my life circles around my digestive discomforts.
  14. I have the feeling that nobody understands my bowel discomforts.


Are other tests also used for IBS assessment?

The following tests might also be used to evaluate the severity of IBS symptoms or their impact on quality of life:

  • The Functional Bowel Disorders Severity Index (FBDSI) is used to categorize the severity of several functional bowel disorders and is mostly linked to the pain intensity and the assessment of health care utilization.
  • The Comorbid Medical Conditions Questionnaire (CMCQ) rates symptoms occurring with IBS but not linked to the digestive system.
  • The Satisfaction with Care Scale (SAT-37) can be used in several bowel disorders and assesses the satisfaction with health care.

What does it feel like to have IBS?

Living with IBS can be very frustrating because the condition dominates everyday life due to its unpredictability. People with IBS often find themselves asking themselves the following questions:

  1. Can I wear this despite my bloated and distended abdomen?
  2. How will my stomach react when I eat this?
  3. What do others think if I keep running to the toilet?
  4. What do I do if there is no toilet nearby?
  5. How do I explain my situation to others?
  6. What happens if I have to cancel appointments because I don’t feel well?
  7. What do I do if I get hungry and can't find anything that I tolerate to eat?

What are the biggest concerns for people with IBS?

In case of particularly severe and long-lasting bowel concerns, it is usually not the physical symptoms such as diarrhea, constipation, abdominal pain, or flatulence that are the most stressful. Rather, the social and emotional tolls People with IBS may have feelings of self doubt or blame. Social and sexual life may be significantly impaired.

Certain tests have shown that three feelings are particularly dominant in people with IBS:

  1. Frustration
  2. Isolation
  3. Dissatisfaction with health care

How severely does IBS restrict quality of life?

It is often underestimated how much quality of life is impaired in people with IBS. In a study of 2000 adult patients diagnosed with IBS, symptoms restricted everyday life for 73 days out of one year. This means most people with IBS experience reduced quality of life every fifth day. People with IBS have a poor quality of life because of restrictions in their diet, mood disturbances, and inferences with daily activities.

Do healthcare providers and people with IBS agree on the severity of IBS?

Healthcare providers and people with IBS often have different theories concerning the cause and severity of IBS, but also concerning the treatment option and the definition of treatment success. Healthcare providers rate the severity of irritable bowel symptoms and the reduction in quality of life on average less seriously than people who live with the symptoms. To date, no precise causes of IBS are known, so patients are often dissatisfied with the answers given by their providers.

Many patients suspect that nutrition, including food allergies and intolerances, or mental health concerns are responsible for the syndrome, although their healthcare providers cannot confirm this theory. All of these factors make the doctor-patient relationship complex and can make it difficult to treat IBS.

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GI Society – Canadian Society of Intestinal Research. IBS Global Impact Report 2018. Accessed March 5, 2020

Dr. med. André Sommer

Dr. med. André Sommer

I’m André, a medical doctor from Berlin. Together with a team of medical doctors, nutritionists and data scientists we empower people to understand digestive issues with our app Cara Care.

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