Tenesmus – What is Tenesmus


also known as rectal tenesmus, is constant feeling of incomplete defecation. It is experienced as an inability to empty the bowel at defecation which usually occurs with inflammatory diseases of the bowels. A person with tensemus feels as though he needs to pass stool, but after strain he could pass little stool.

Term “Tenesmus” is also used in referance to vesical tenesmus which is the feeling of incomplete emptying of the bladder following urination. Pain-passing stools, painful stools and difficulty passing stool are some of the terms that describe this condition. In this article we discuss about rectal tenesmus.

Here are the conditions that cause rectal tenesmus:

  • Inflammatory bowel disease
  • Infection of the colon
  • Crohn’s disease
  • Colorectal cancer or tumors
  • Anorectal abscess
  • Ulcerative colitis

Associated conditions are:

  • Diverticular disease
  • Radiation proctitis
  • Celiac disease
  • Shigellosis
  • Rectal Lymphogranuloma venereum
  • Rectal gonorrhoea
  • Shigella
  • Amebiasis
  • Kidney stones, when a stone is lodged in the lower ureter

Some of additional symptoms of tenesmus are:

Diagnosis of tenesmus:

While diagnosing tenesmus the doctor takes the detailed history of the patient inquiring symptom history, dietary history, medical history, time pattern of tenesmus, etc.

In physical examination the doctor thoroughly examines abdomen. A rectal examination and for men prostate examination is performed. Other tests that are taken are

  • Complete blood count (CBC)
  • Colonoscopy of colon and rectum
  • Electrolytes
  • Stool cultures
  • CT scan of the abdomen
  • X-rays of the abdomen


Tenesmus is treated by alleviating the underlying cause of disease.

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