AskDefine | Define tenesmus

Dictionary Definition

tenesmus n : painful spasm of the anal sphincter along with an urgent desire to defecate without the significant production of feces; associated with irritable bowel syndrome

User Contributed Dictionary



  1. The painful and often ineffectual straining to relieve the bowels
  2. a painfully urgent need to urinate of defecate that results in little being passed

Extensive Definition

Tenesmus is a feeling of incomplete defecation. It is experienced as an inability or difficulty to empty the bowel at defecation. It is frequently painful and may be accompanied by involuntary straining and other gastrointestinal symptoms.
Vesical tenesmus is a similar condition, referring to difficult or failed attempts to urinate despite the bladder feeling full.
Rectal tenesmus is sometimes used as a retronym to further distinguish defecation-related tenesmus from vesical tenesmus.


Tenesmus is characterized by a sensation of needing to pass stool, accompanied by pain, cramping, and straining. Despite straining, little stool is passed. Tenesmus is generally associated with inflammatory diseases of the bowel, which may be caused by either infectious or noninfectious conditions. Conditions associated with tenesmus include:

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