Tenesmus: One of the Most Uncomfortable IBD Symptoms
Last updated: March 2023
Ever experience running to the bathroom over and over again because you feel this urgent need to evacuate your bowels? But then when you go, not much or nothing at all comes out?
What is tenesmus?
Tenesmus is the sensation of urgently needing to evacuate the bowels even though they are empty. This may be accompanied by pain, cramping, or straining and you may feel like you cannot completely empty the bowel even though there is nothing left to expel.
Back when I had a colon and rectum this was a symptom that plagued me when my disease was active. I would run to the bathroom, use it, and before I could even pull up my pants and walk away, I felt the need to evacuate my bowels again.
Constantly running to the bathroom
So, I had to return to the toilet, even though nothing was left to expel. It seemed like my whole day was constantly running to the bathroom and having the tiniest of bowel movements.
But, the urgency, cramping, and straining were ever-present. Patients who experience tenesmus describe having multiple, very small, bowel movements throughout the day as they try to relieve the sensations of needing to urgently empty the bowel.
What causes tenesmus?
There are several causes of tenesmus and inflammatory bowel disease (Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis) is the a culprit!
Tenesmus is caused by inflammation in the rectum and even a tiny amount of stool or gas in the rectum can cause the sensation of needing to urgently move the bowels as the inflamed rectum expands and contracts.
Tenesmus is more common in ulcerative colitis
Tenesmus is more common in patients with ulcerative colitis compared to patients with Crohn's disease. This is because tenesmus is caused by inflammation in the rectum and nearly all patients with UC have inflammation that starts in the rectum and continues up from there.
Patients with Crohn's disease can have inflammation anywhere along the digestive tract with the terminal ileum being the most commonplace Crohn's disease affects.
Stress and impact on the quality of life when constantly using the bathroom
Tenesmus can be a very distressing symptom. Constantly feeling like you need to run to the bathroom can seriously affect a person's quality of life.
If you experience this symptom talk with your gastroenterologist about treatments that can help.
The feeling of urgently needing to evacuate the bowels even though they are empty is called tenesmus. This can come with pain, cramping, or straining.
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