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Proctitis Overview

Proctitis is defined as inflammation of the anus (the opening) and lining of the rectum (lower part of the intestine leading to the anus). Symptoms of proctitis can vary greatly. One may at first have only minor problems. Proctitis affects the last 6 inches of the rectum and can cause the following:

  • Pain during a bowel movement
  • Soreness in the anal and rectal area
  • Feeling that you didn't completely empty the bowels after a bowel movement
  • Involuntary spasms and cramping during bowel movements
  • Bleeding, and possibly a discharge

Proctitis can last a short time or become a chronic condition (last for weeks or months or longer).

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Need relief for painful, itchinghemorrhoids? Better yet, how would you like to prevent flare-ups in the first place? About 10 million Americans suffer from hemorrhoids, which are swollen veins in the rectum or around the anus. They can be internal or external. External hemorrhoids more commonly cause symptoms of pain and itching when irritated. Internal hemorrhoids generally are painless but can cause bleeding. "They can cause bright red rectal bleeding, but if you have bleeding, don't assume it's...

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Causes of Proctitis

Proctitis has many causes, but sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) are the most common. Gonorrhea, syphilis, herpes, anal warts, and chlamydia are the most common cause of sexually transmitted proctitis. Proctitis is increasingly more common in homosexual men and in people engaging in oral-anal or anal intercourse with many partners.

Other causes of proctitis include the following:

Symptoms of Proctitis

When to Seek Medical Care for Proctitis

If you have any proctitis symptoms -- especially if you have a history of high-risk sexual behavior that may lead to proctitis -- you should contact your health care provider to be checked. Other minor conditions such as hemorrhoids also can cause similar symptoms. Your doctor can tell the difference and provide the right treatment.

If you have bleeding and mucus in a bowel movement, severe pain, or diarrhea, seek immediate treatment. Complications such as severe bleeding and anemia need immediate medical attention. As a result of severe diarrhea, you also may be dehydrated. Symptoms indicating severe disease include weakness, dizziness, irritability, shortness of breath, and headaches.

Exams and Tests for Proctitis

The diagnosis of proctitis is based on the suspected cause.

  • Your health care provider will take a thorough medical history to determine your sexual practices and if you have any high-risk behaviors.
  • Most cases of suspected proctitis require a procedure called a proctosigmoidoscopy. A lighted tube with a camera is passed through the anus and used to look at the surface of your rectum. The image is projected on a TV screen and is magnified to identify changes.
  • In addition, your doctor also may take a biopsy (small piece of tissue) of your rectum for testing for disease or infection.
  • Any discharge present will undergo lab testing to identify any bacteria that may be present.
  • Doctors also frequently test your blood for the presence of antibodies to support the diagnosis.
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