To get a better understanding of irritable bowel syndrome, which affects about 20 percent of American adults with varying severity, you can break it down this way: For about one-third of patients the dominant problem is diarrhea. For another third, it’s constipation. And for the remaining third, it’s a combination of diarrhea and constipation.
For a condition still eluding full medical knowledge, that’s a helpful explanation, and it comes from Dr. William D. Chey, a digestive system expert from the University of Michigan, who was discussing possible new drug treatments for irritable bowel syndrome in a Sept. 13, 2010, story in The New York Times.
Chey said that laxatives can relieve constipation but often do not help with abdominal pain. Certain drugs can zero in on the pain yet make the constipation worse, he said, adding that a drug to treat both constipation and pain may be on the way.