Are Constipation And Tenesmus Linked?

The gastrointestinal (GI) system, also known as the digestive system, is a complex system of organs that work together to break down food and absorb nutrients from it. The GI system includes the mouth, esophagus, stomach, small intestine, large intestine, rectum, and anus, as well as associated organs, such as the liver, pancreas, and gallbladder (via the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK). In many cases, problems with our GI system can cause various symptoms that are hard to understand. 

Constipation and tenesmus are two distinct bowel movements that arise in the GI system. Constipation is a condition where a person has difficulty passing stools, and bowel movements may occur less frequently than usual. Tenesmus, on the other hand, is a sensation where a person has a constant and persistent urge to have a bowel movement, but little or no stool is passed, per the Cleveland Clinic.

The link between constipation and tenesmus

Tenesmus can be a symptom of constipation and is commonly associated with conditions affecting the rectum or anal area, according to the experts at the Cleveland Clinic. While constipated, stools become hard and difficult to pass, which can lead to incomplete bowel movements and the feeling of tenesmus.

Another potential link between constipation and tenesmus is that the same underlying medical conditions may be responsible for both bowel movements. For example, tenesmus is a listed symptom of inflammatory bowel diseases (IBD), including Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis. Constipation is also listed as a symptom of ulcerative colitis.

If you are experiencing tenesmus or other symptoms of constipation, it is important to talk to a healthcare provider. In fact, self-treating tenesmus may not always be effective. Therefore, experts recommend getting a proper diagnosis from a doctor, who can help determine the underlying causes and appropriate treatment options. 

How are both bowel movements treated?

Diagnosing and treating tenesmus and constipation may involve a comprehensive medical evaluation and a targeted treatment plan. Some possible treatment options your doctor may recommend include lifestyle changes, medications, and treatment for underlying medical conditions. In fact, increasing physical activity, drinking more water, and eating a high-fiber diet can help alleviate tenesmus and improve bowel movements (via Healthline). Likewise, the same treatment options are noted for constipation (per Mayo Clinic).

In addition, laxatives or stool softeners may be prescribed to help alleviate constipation. However, if an underlying infection causes tenesmus, antibiotics may be prescribed to treat the infection, according to Healthline. In some cases, surgery may be necessary to treat conditions that cause tenesmus, such as rectal prolapse. When the tenesmus or constipation is caused by an underlying medical condition, such as IBD, treatment will focus on managing the underlying condition. Your doctor may prescribe various corticosteroids and anti-inflammatory drugs, per Medical News Today.