When it comes to the world of gastrointestinal diseases, you may hear a lot of acronyms such as IBD and IBS. Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) is a broad term that refers to chronic swelling (inflammation) of the intestines. It’s often confused with the non-inflammatory condition irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).

Although the two disorders share similar names and some of the same symptoms, they have distinct differences. Learn the key differences here. Be sure to discuss your concerns with a gastroenterologist.


IBS is extremely common. In fact, the International Foundation for Functional Gastrointestinal Disorders estimates that it affects up to 15 percent of the American population. According to Cedars-Sinai, about 25 percent of Americans complain of IBS symptoms. This is also the most common reason why patients seek out a gastroenterologist.


IBS is characterized by a combination of:

  • abdominal pain
  • cramps
  • constipation
  • diarrhea

IBD can cause the same symptoms, as well as:

  • eye discomfort
  • extreme fatigue
  • joint pain
  • rectal bleeding