Our Health Library information does not replace the advice of a doctor. Please be advised that this information is made available to assist our patients to learn more about their health. Our providers may not see and/or treat all topics found herein.

Irritable Bowel Syndrome: Criteria for Diagnosis

Topic Overview

Experts on digestive diseases developed these criteria, known as the Rome III criteria, to help doctors determine whether symptoms are caused by irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). You meet the Rome III criteria for IBS if your symptoms began at least 6 months ago, you have had abdominal (belly) pain or discomfort at least 3 days each month in the last 3 months, and at least two of the following statements are true:footnote 1

  • The pain is relieved by having a bowel movement.
  • The pain is linked to a change in how often you have a bowel movement.
  • The pain is linked to a change in the appearance or consistency of your stool.

Having any of the following symptoms supports the diagnosis of IBS.

  • A change in how often you pass stool (more than 3 times a day or less than 3 times a week)
  • A change in the form of your stool (such as lumpy and hard or watery and loose)
  • A change in the way stool passes (you may have to strain, you may feel an urgent need to pass stool, or you may feel like you have not completely passed a stool)
  • Passing of mucus in the stool
  • Bloating or a feeling like your stomach is stretched out

These criteria are used along with a medical history and physical exam to help your doctor determine whether you have IBS.

Health Tools

Health Tools help you make wise health decisions or take action to improve your health.

Decision Points focus on key medical care decisions that are important to many health problems.

References

Citations

  1. Longstreth GF, et al. (2006). Irritable bowel syndrome section of Functional bowel disorders. In DA Drossman et al., eds., Rome III: The Functional Gastrointestinal Disorders, 3rd ed., pp. 490–509. McLean, VA: Degnon Associates.

Credits

Current as of: August 11, 2019

Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review: E. Gregory Thompson MD - Internal Medicine
Adam Husney MD - Family Medicine

News & Events

View All

Travel Warnings and Tips for Pregnant Women

If you decide to vacation, visit old friends, or must travel for work, pregnancy shouldn’t stop you from flying or