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Tenesmus

Definition

Tenesmus is the feeling that you need to pass stools, even though your bowels are already empty. It may involve straining, pain, and cramping.

Alternative Names

Pain - passing stool; Painful stools; Difficulty passing stool

Considerations

Tenesmus usually occurs with inflammatory diseases of the bowels. These diseases may be caused by an infection or other conditions.

It can also occur with diseases that affect the normal movements of the intestines. Such diseases are called motility disorders.

Persons with tenesmus may push very hard (strain) to try to empty their bowels, but they pass little stool.

Common Causes

Home Care

If you feel that you are constipated, try to increase your fluid and fiber intake.

Call your health care provider if

Contact your health care provider if you continue to have symptoms of tenesmus that are constant or come and go.

Also call if you have:

  • Abdominal pain
  • Blood in the stool
  • Chills
  • Fever
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting

These symptoms could be a sign of a disease that might be causing the problem.

What to expect at your health care provider's office

The doctor will examine you and ask questions such as:

  • Time pattern
  • Symptom history
  • Dietary history
  • Other

The physical examination may include a detailed abdominal examination. A rectal examination is performed in most cases.

Tests that may be done include:

References

Camilleri M. Disorders of gastrointestinal motility. In: Goldman L, Schafer AI, eds. . 24th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2011:chap 138.

Cook IJ, Brookes SJ, Dinning PG. Colonic motor and sensory function and dysfunction. In: Feldman M, Friedman LS, Sleisenger MH, eds. . 9th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2010:chap 98.

Lichtenstein GP. Inflammatory bowel disease. In: Goldman L, Schafer AI, eds. . 24th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2011:chap 143.

Encyclopedia content is provided as information only and not intended to replace the advice and instruction from your personal physician.