What is Tenesmus?

Tenesmus refers to intense ineffectual and painful straining to defecate or urinate. Tenesmus victims often feel a recurrent need to empty their bowels.

The victims of tenesmus also experience pain associated with cramps and distress while emptying their bowels. People suffering from the condition also exert and strain much during ease, but can pass little or no stools.

Tenesmus definition

Rectal Vs Vesical Tenesmus

Rectal tenesmus is when one strains to defecate while vesical tenesmus is when one strains to urinate. The condition might be continuous or recurrent. Tenesmus occurs in both humans and animals, but is a treatable condition. Constipation, however, worsens tenesmus as it becomes difficult to discard waste that accumulates in the colon.

Tenesmus, if not treated can result into serious diseases like thrombosed hemorrhoids, endometriosis, colorectal tumors, or cancer.


Tenesmus is commonly caused by inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). These inflammatory diseases form a long-term inflammation in one’s digestive tract. The most common forms of IBD are crohn’s and ulcerative colitis.

  • Crohn’s disease: Having crohn’s disease may make you have tenesmus. A person with crohn’s disease will have symptoms like diarrhea and abdominal pains.
  • Ulcerative colitis: This is a condition in which the inner lining of the large intestine and rectum becomes inflamed. It is a likely cause for tenesmus. Both crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis cause ulcerations along the digestive tract. This, in turn, causes scarring along the walls of the tract, which leads to difficulties when passing stool- normally the stool may also be bloody if inflammation is severe.
  • Motility disorders: These are diseases that affect normal movements of the intestines. Some of the most common mobility disorders are constipation and diarrhea. Constipation occurs when there is infrequent bowel movement and it results in passing of hard stools and difficulty in passing stool. Diarrhea on the other hand is caused by an excessive number of high amplitude propagating or rapid transit. These motility disorders can trigger tenesmus.
  • Rectal injury: An injury of the rectum can contribute to tenesmus.
  • Anorexia: This is a psychological and life-threatening disorder that can also contribute to tenesmus.
  • Proctitis: This is the inflammation of the anus and the lining of the rectum. When an individual is suffering from proctitis, he or she will experience pain during bowel movements and soreness in the anal and rectal areas. Proctitis is commonly caused by sexually transmitted diseases and is a contributing factor to tenesmus.
  • Acute diarrhea: Watery diarrhea, which is one of the most commonly reported illnesses in the United States is caused by a virus (viral gastroenteritis).
  • Radiation enteritis: This condition is caused by inflammation of the large and small intestine from radiation treatments in one’s stomach, rectum, or sexual organs. Radiation enteritis can cause loss of both intestinal cells and tissue.
  • Anorectal abscess: A collection of pus in the anus and rectum caused by blocking glands in the anal area. Infection of anal fissure, sexually transmitted diseases or trauma, diabetes, anal sex, chemotherapy, and a weak immune system increase the risk of anorectal abscess.
  • Dysentery: An infection of the intestines resulting in severe diarrhea with the presence of blood.
  • Chlamydia infection: This is a sexually transmitted infection that infects both men and women. The infection may cause rectal pain if anal sex was involved. It may also cause burning sensations when urinating.
  • Colon cancer: This form of cancer is caused by an outgrowth of cells in the large intestines, which in turn leads to complications in the digestive system thus contributing to tenesmus.

Other causes of tenesmus are multiple sclerosis and bladder cancer.


A person with tenesmus may one or more of the following symptoms:

  • Pain in the abdominal area
  • The need or urgency to empty the bowels even if you had done it minutes ago
  • Cramps when trying to pass stool
  • A little blood and mucus in stool
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Chills


Diagnosis is done after the doctor knows about the symptoms and other related changes in body. Diagnostic tests done include:

  • Stool culture
  • Complete blood count(CBC)
  • Colonoscopy
  • Blood sampling
  • Abdominal x-rays
  • Endoscopy and biopsy
  • Ct scan of the abdominal area

Tenesmus Diagnosis


When a person is suffering from tenesmus, it is advisable to know the underlying cause. After an examination by a doctor, different treatment options may be recommended depending on the underlying cause.


Research has shown that antibiotics help kill bacteria in the large intestine that could be causing an IBD and tenesmus. In the case of motility disorders, the doctor might treat the disorder with antibiotics.


This is removal of the rectum and part or all of the colon in severe cases of tenesmus.

Home Remedies

Home remedies may also be prescribed depending on the doctor’s diagnosis. The most effective home remedy for tenesmus is maintaining a nutritious and healthy diet as well as physical exercise. People with tenesmus should remain active by engaging in physical exercise.

Regular exercise rejuvenates the body, stimulates the digestive system, and boosts the immune system. All these factors together help prevent bowel disorders and help the body cope with diseases thus reducing the risk of tenesmus. Other home remedies include:

  • Consumption of bishop’s weed and sugar candy with water twice or thrice a day – this is considered effective in dealing with tenesmus, but should first seek the advice of your doctor.
  • People with tenesmus should avoid consumption of junk foods, sugar treats, aerated drinks, processed foods and such.
  • Green vegetables and fruits should be on the grocery list frequently- these are rich in fiber, which helps the digestive system get rid of waste easily and effectively thus preventing constipation.
  • Liquids are also very effective remedies for tenesmus. Fluids clean the colon and help get rid of toxins, which in turn, aids in digestion and smooth passage of stools.

It is advisable to consult the doctor before starting self medication or using home remedies so as to first diagnose the cause tenesmus.

If ignored, tenesmus can lead to further complications. It is also important to know that tenesmus doesn’t only affect adults, but also little kids and thus parents should watch out for symptoms of tenesmus in child and seek medical advice in advance.

Reference List

  1. https://medlineplus.gov/ency/article/003131.htm
  2. http://www.rightdiagnosis.com/symptoms/tenesmus/common.htm
  3. http://healthtools.aarp.org/health/tenesmus
  4. http://study.com/academy/lesson/inflammatory-bowel-disease-ulcerative-colitis.html
  5. http://b4tea.com/food-health/tenesmus-treatment-tenesmus-causes-symptoms/

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