Glossary

Definitions of some medical terms you may find on these articles:

abdominal rectopexy : operation to repair a rectal prolapse, done through an abdominal incision (cut).(Information)

anal canal : passageway between the rectum and the outside, the back passage.

anal plug : a small foam plug inserted into the anus to control stool leakage. (Website)

anal sphincter : the rings of muscle around the anus that give bowel control.

anorectal physiological studies : specialised tests of the nerves and muscles of the rectum and anus.

anus : opening at the lower end of the rectum, through which stool is passed.

barium enema : X-ray of the lower part of the bowel. Barium paste is put into the rectum via the anus to outline the bowel.

biofeedback : specialised training of the bowel control muscles.

caesarian section : operation for birth of a baby through an abdominal incision.

call to stool : the feeling that the bowel needs emptying.

codeine phosphate : medicine to treat diarrhoea or loose stools.

colon : the large intestines or large bowel which absorbs water from the waste food that your body cannot use and forms it into stools.

colonoscopy : examination of the colon using a tiny camera on the end of a flexible tube, so that the doctor can inspect the wall of the bowel from the inside.

colostomy : an artificial opening of the bowel on the abdominal wall.

constipation : the experience of infrequent or hard stools which are difficult or uncomfortable to pass.

Crohns disease : a disease of the bowel where patches of the bowel wall become inflamed from time to time. This can lead to pain, diarrhoea, and sometimes passing blood when the inflammation is bad. In most cases it can be controlled by modern medicines. (See inflammatory bowel disease, below).

defaecation : passing a stool.

Delormes operation : operation for rectal prolapse done through the anus, so that there is no abdominal incision. (Information)

enema : liquid medicine inserted into the rectum through the anus to stimulate bowel emptying.

external anal sphincter : the voluntary muscle around the anus that you can squeeze to delay passing stool.

faeces : bowel motions, the waste products of the digestive system, also known as stool.

fibre : the indigestible part of plants (fruit and vegetables) in the food we eat, which forms a large part of the faeces. Fibre helps to hold water in the faeces, making them softer and easy to pass.

fissure : a small split in the lining of the anal canal, which can be very painful, particularly when opening the bowels.

fistula : An abnormal opening in the anal canal, often caused by an infection.

flatus : gas or wind produced in the bowel, mostly as a result of the normal activity of bacteria in the bowel.

gastro-colic response : automatic increase in bowel contractions in response to eating or drinking. This can lead to a mass movement of stool in the colon, and a call to stool shortly afterwards.

haemorrhoids : enlargement of the normal cushions of blood vessels inside the anus. These can become like varicose veins in the anus, and may bleed and cause pain when opening the bowels.

haemorrhoidectomy : surgical removal of troublesome haemorrhoids. (Information)

Hirschsprungs disease : rare disease that is congenital (you are born with it). The nerves at the lower end of the rectum fail to develop, leading to severe constipation.

ileostomy : an artificial opening of the small bowel onto the wall of the abdomen.

Imodium : medicine to treat diarrhoea or loose stool, also called loperamide (see below).

impaction : bowel overloaded with stool causing a blockage.

incontinence : loss of control of the contents of the bowel (faecal incontinence) or of the bladder (urinary incontinence).

Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) : common name for ulcerative colitis and Crohns disease (Website).

internal anal sphincter : inner ring of muscle around the anal canal. This muscle works automatically to keep the anus closed at all times except when you need to pass a stool.

irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) : bowel disorder that causes an irregular and upredictable bowel habit, often constipation alternating with loose stools, and usually with some abdominal discomfort (Website).

laxative : medicine to treat constipation.

Lomotil : medicine to treat diarrhoea or loose stools.

Loperamide : medicine to treat diarrhoea or loose stools, also known as Imodium (Information).

manometry : tests to measure pressures in the muscles of the rectum and anus.

mass movements : waves of activity in the colon propelling stool large distances towards the anus.

Multiple Sclerosis : disease of the nervous system that can affect bowel control (Website).

Parkinsons disease : disease of the nervous system that can affect bowel control, most usually causing constipation (Website).

passive soiling : losing stool through the anus without feeling the urge to open the bowels.

pelvic floor : muscles which support the bladder, bowel and in women the vagina.

pelvic floor exercises : exercises to strengthen the pelvic floor. Contact your Continence Adviser, physiotherapist or the Continence Foundation for details on how to do these (Website).

post-anal repair : surgical repair of the muscles behind the anus.

pruritus ani : severe itching and irritation of the skin around the anus (More information).

rectal prolapse : laxity of the wall or muscle of the rectum so that it comes down through the anus.

rectum : the lowest part of the bowel where stools are held until the toilet is reached.

small bowel : the small intestines, which run from the stomach down to the colon and are responsible for digesting the food and absorbing the nutrients from it into the bloodstream.

stool : bowel motions, the waste products of the digestive system, also known as faeces.

suppositories : small pellets inserted through the anus into the rectum to lubricate or stimulate bowel emptying.

ulcerative colitis : an inflammatory disease of the colon which can cause diarrhoea and abdominal pain.

ultrasound : use of sound waves to create images of the internal organs of the body.

urgency : the need to find a toilet in a hurry.

urge incontinence : not making it to the toilet in time.