Inflammatory Bowel Disease

Rushing to the bathroom!? Not making it on time?!

April 23, 2023

Urgency and tenesmus are common symptoms of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) and are probably the most disturbing and least talked about symptoms of IBD.

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Urgency and tenesmus are common symptoms of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) and are probably the most disturbing and least talked about symptoms of IBD. 


Urgency refers to a sudden and compelling need to have a bowel movement, often accompanied by a feeling of incomplete evacuation and still feeling like you have more to go…but you may not. This is really and truly that urge to run to the bathroom or you may have an accident on yourself and unfortunately, for many patients with IBD, accidents happen. It’s important to know that you aren’t alone and many other patients experience these symptoms.


Tenesmus, on the other hand, refers to the sensation of needing to pass stool even when the rectum is empty. So you go and sit on the toilet and nothing comes out, maybe just some gas. 

These symptoms of urgency and tenesmus are often because of inflammation and irritation of the lining of the rectum and colon, which are common features of both ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease. You may experience varying degrees of urgency and tenesmus depending on the severity and location of inflammation.

I would recommend that you speak with your physician about these symptoms as there are a variety of treatments that can help to alleviate them. 

Access to bathrooms ASAP

As a result, it is VERY  important for you  to have access to clean and accessible restrooms when you need it. Here are some resources that you can use to find bathroom access:

  • The Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation: The foundation provides a free mobile app called “Can’t Wait” that helps patients find restrooms near them. The app also includes a rating system to help users find the most accessible restrooms.

  • Restroom Request Card: The Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation also provides a restroom request card that patients can carry with them. The card explains that the individual has a medical condition that requires urgent restroom access and asks for assistance in finding a restroom.

  • National Restroom Access Program: This program, also known as the “Ally’s Law,” requires businesses in some states to provide access to their restrooms to individuals with certain medical conditions, including IBD. Patients can carry a medical alert card to explain their condition and request access to the restroom.

  • AccessNow: This mobile app allows users to search for accessible places, including restrooms, in their area. Users can rate and review the accessibility of the places they visit, helping others find the best options.

  • ToiletFinder: This website and mobile app allows users to search for public restrooms in their area. Users can rate and review the restrooms, helping others find the most accessible options.

I really hope this helps and that you discuss these symptoms with your physician to see if your medications can be better optimized so that you can feel more in control, know your rights as a patient, and know where the bathrooms are at when you do need it. 

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