When to see your doctor

IBS does not actually cause harm to the digestive system, even though it can affect your quality of life. But IBS symptoms always need investigating to rule out serious problems, particularly if you have a family history of bowel cancer or ovarian cancer, or if you are over 50 years old and your bowel habits have recently changed for more than six weeks.

See your doctor if you have had:

  • loss of appetite
  • continuing unexplained weight loss
  • digestive problems developing for the first time in mid-life or later life (a change of bowel habits in middle age always needs investigating, as this may be a symptom of bowel cancer)
  • persistent diarrhoea, constipation or any significant alteration in bowel habits
  • changes in your stools (bowel motions), especially if they become black, dark red, pale or contain mucus (slime)
  • a general feeling of tiredness, lethargy or being unwell in association with any abdominal symptoms.