How Do You Know If You Have IBS-C (Irritable Bowel Syndrome with Constipation)?

Medically reviewed by Beth Holloway, RN, M. Ed
2020-11-24

You may have constipation, or trouble with bowel movements, from time to time. Most people do. And, it usually goes away within a few days. What if it doesn’t go away? Is it irritable bowel syndrome with constipation, IBS-C?

Functional gastrointestinal (GI) disorders interfere with the way the GI tract works or functions. You may think IBS is quite different from other GI disorders. But, IBS-constipation, for example, is actually similar to chronic constipation. It’s a challenge even for doctors to know the difference.

What Is IBS?

IBS is one of the functional GI disorders - again, there is a problem with the way the GI tract functions. 

IBS has a very specific definition. First, a person must have symptoms for at least 6 months. And they must have belly (abdominal) pain at least 1 day a week in the last 3 months. The pain must be associated with at least 2 of the following:

  • Pain related to bowel movements

  • More frequent bowel movements

  • Change in appearance of stool

Types Of IBS

There are 3 main types of IBS: IBS with constipation (IBS-C), IBS with diarrhea (IBS-D), and IBS with mixed symptoms (IBS-M), with both constipation and diarrhea. Each type of IBS is determined by the type of stool that is most common.

For IBS-C, on the days when a person has at least one abnormal bowel movement, they have:

more than 1 out of 4 stools that are hard or lumpy and less than 1 out of 4 stools that are loose or watery.

Features Of IBS

Again, it is difficult to determine if a person has constipation due to IBS or some other cause. Abdominal pain is a key feature of IBS. The pain may be felt anywhere in the abdomen, but is most common in the lower part of the abdomen.

Other factors that may be present in people with IBS include:

  • Changing bowel movements (constipation, diarrhea, both constipation and diarrhea)

  • Worsening abdominal pain with bowel movements

  • Abdominal bloating

Again, symptoms must be present for at least 6 months before diagnosis and must be present during the past 3 months.

Features of IBS-C

For a diagnosis of IBS with constipation, doctors look for an increasing number of days in a row without a bowel movement. They also consider factors like:

  • Less than 3 bowel movements per week

  • Abnormal stool form (hard, lumpy)

  • Straining to have bowel movements

  • Urgency (The need to get to the toilet quickly) with bowel movements

  • Incomplete bowel movements

  • Bowel movements with mucus 

Unrelated to GI symptoms, many people with IBS also have psychological problems like anxiety and depression.

How Goodpath Can Help

Having trouble putting all of this together? Are you still unsure about whether or not you have IBS-C? Goodpath has answers.

If you think you have IBS, we’ll help you figure out if your symptoms are IBS. Complete our assessment and we’ll provide you with answers and a personalized program to help lessen your symptoms. 

If you want more information about IBS, Goodpath has it. Please go to our “Learn Center” for IBS information from our medical team.