So you just used the bathroom a few minutes ago. Now you have the urge to move your bowels once again. You give in, but very little to no stool goes out. If this is an ongoing thing, then you may have tenesmus.
Tenesmus, simply put, is having this frequent urge to defecate. It is not a disease, but rather a sign that there is a health issue currently going on within you, most of the time the kind that involves the bowel. So in order to put tenesmus to an end, the underlying cause needs to be dealt with.
Generally speaking, tenesmus happens when the last few inches of your colon called the rectum is inflamed. Due to the said enlargement, any amount of stool and even gas present can stimulate the nerves present in the area, and this makes the brain think that it’s time to evacuate the bowels — even if you just did that not too long ago.
So what can cause the colon to become inflamed? There are many different problems that can be blamed for such. Some of the most common ones include:
- Abnormal growths in the colon (polyps, tumors, etc.)
- Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
- Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD)
- Infectious colitis
- Hemorrhoids and other problems with the anus (fissures, fistulas, etc.)
- Colorectal cancer
Medical experts say that some problems concerning the male and female reproductive systems may also cause tenesmus due to the close proximity of the involved organs to the colon. In rare instances, laxative abuse, pelvic tumors and pinworms in the gut may also cause tenesmus.
Having the frequent urge to go to the bathroom and defecate is the primary symptom of tenesmus. When you try to evacuate your bowels, there is very little stool that comes out — sometimes none at all. You may also have this feeling that your bowels are not completely emptied afterwards.
Other than the desire to empty the bowels, there may be abdominal pain and cramps present. Some people report of experiencing involuntary straining while they’re sitting on the toilet.
By the way, medical experts say that there are a couple of types of tenesmus. One of them is called intermittent tenesmus, which is characterized the coming and going urge to defecate. The other is known as constant or persistent tenesmus, and it involves an unremitting urge to defecate that can last for hours and sometimes days.
Since there are many different reasons why tenesmus happens, the treatment varies as well — it all depends on the medical condition behind it. Once the cause is treated, tenesmus goes away.
Anything from the use of steroids to control inflammation to the administration of mild antidepressants to lessen the sensation in the colon may be done by a doctor. If an overactive immune system is the culprit, drugs that inhibit its action may be prescribed. In some instances, a person with tenesmus may have to undergo surgery in order to have the underlying cause treated.
There are also numerous steps that a person with tenesmus may do at home to have the problem put under control. Some of them include:
- Increasing the intake of fluids to prevent constipation that can exacerbate tenesmus.
- Adding more fiber-rich foods in the diet on a daily basis, again in order to prevent constipation.
- Being more physically active to encourage normal and healthy functioning of the gut.
- Refraining from taking or using a lot of laxatives as such can cause constipation once stopped.
- Avoiding sitting on the toilet for extended periods of time.
- Refraining from straining hard while trying to move the bowels.