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Irritable Bowel Syndrome in U.S Veterans

U.S Veterans who deployed in foreign land and participated in active combat may develop long-term physical and psychological problems. Functional gastrointestinal disorders (FGDs), such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), are emerging in some veterans or more recent conflicts.

What is Irritable Bowel Syndrome?

Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is also known as spastic colon, irritable colon, mucous colitis, and spastic colitis. IBS is a disorder that affects the large intestine. IBS is a chronic condition that needs to be managed long term.

The signs and symptoms of IBS vary. The most common include:

· Abdominal pain, cramping or bloating that is typically relieved or partially relieved by passing a bowel moment

· Excess gas

· Diarrhea or constipation

· Mucus in the stool

The Link Between IBS and Military Service

Much of ongoing research focuses on post-infectious IBS. Those stationed in foreign lands are at high risk for travelers’ diarrhea, foodborne illness, and other forms of infectious gastroenteritis. A veteran’s risk of developing ongoing IBS after such an illness is six times higher than that of a veteran who did not experience the original illness.

Additionally, there is a risk for IBS in individuals who experience higher levels of anxiety, particularly surrounding stressful life events. The stressors inherent in military service may contribute to the increased risk of developing IBS, including:

· Traumatic combat experiences

· The ongoing fear of being harmed

· Being far from home

How to Get VA Disability Rating?

Irritable Bowel Syndrome is not considered a VA presumptive condition, meaning the VA does not consider IBS to be caused by such things as Agent Orange or ionized radiation exposure, or exposure to contaminated water at Camp Lejeune.

However, under the VA’s regulation for qualifying disabilities for Persian Gulf War veterans, IBS is a “medically unexplained chronic multi-symptom illness that is defined by a cluster of signs or symptoms.” This means that the VA may grant service connection for a Persian Gulf War veteran with Irritable Bowel Syndrome.

How is IBS Rated?

Rating Symptoms

30% If it is severe with diarrhea or if it alternates between diarrhea and constipation with stomach pains

10% If there are frequent episodes of abnormal bowel movements with stomach pain

0% If there are mild abnormal bowel movements with occasional stomach pain


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