What to Know About Proctitis

Medically Reviewed By Alana Biggers, M.D., MPH

Proctitis is the term for inflammation of the lining of the rectum. Typical causes include radiation therapy, inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), and sexually transmitted infections (STIs). People with proctitis will typically experience Trusted Source PubMed Central Highly respected database from the National Institutes of Health Go to source a constant urge to have a bowel movement. They may also have diarrhea and rectal pain.

The treatment options include immunosuppressants, corticosteroids, and antibiotics. Home remedies, such as sitz baths and drinking plenty of fluids, may also provide relief.

This article explains proctitis, including its symptoms and causes. It also discusses the treatment options available.

Symptoms of proctitis

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According to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, the symptoms of proctitis can include:

  • a continuous urge to have a bowel movement, known as tenesmus 
  • diarrhea and constipation
  • rectal or anal pain, especially during a bowel movement
  • pain on the left side of your abdomen 
  • rectal bleeding or bloody stool 
  • passing mucus or pus through your rectum 

Other possible symptoms include:

  • difficulty maintaining penile erections
  • swollen lymph nodes in your groin
  • a feeling of fullness in your rectum

Proctitis can be Trusted Source PubMed Central Highly respected database from the National Institutes of Health Go to source acute or chronic. This means that the symptoms can be short-lived or persistent. 

If you have severe or persistent symptoms, you should consult a doctor as soon as possible.

Causes of proctitis

Proctitis can result from:

  • STIs: These are among the most common Trusted Source Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Governmental authority Go to source causes of inflammation in the rectal lining. They include gonorrhea, chlamydia, and syphilis
  • Viral infections: Some viruses can cause proctitis. One example is genital herpes.
  • Bacterial infections: Foodborne bacteria, such as Salmonella and Shigella, can also cause proctitis.
  • Trauma: Trauma or damage to the anal area can cause proctitis. This can occur after engaging in vigorous anal intercourse or inserting objects into the rectum.
  • Radiation therapy: Radiation directed at the pelvic area can also trigger symptoms. This may happen during treatment for rectal cancer, prostate cancer, and other similar cancers.
  • Antibiotics: These medications can kill helpful bacteria in the bowels and allow harmful bacteria to grow. Rectal infection may also occur after antibiotic use.
  • IBD: IBD is an umbrella term for chronic conditions involving inflammation in the intestines. The types include ulcerative colitis, microscopic colitis, and Crohn’s disease.

Learn more about STIs.

Medical treatment for proctitis

Doctors treat proctitis by addressing the underlying cause. 

The most common treatment methods include:

  • Corticosteroids: Drugs such as cortisone and prednisone may reduce inflammation.
  • Antivirals: Zanamivir (Relenza) and peramivir (Rapivab) are among the options to treat viral infections. 
  • Antibiotics: Doctors may prescribe tetracyclines, such as doxycycline (Doryx), to treat bacterial infections and STIs.
  • Immunosuppressants: Adalimumab (Humira) is one of the options to treat IBD.
  • Stool softeners: These drugs, which include oral magnesium hydroxide, may make passing stool easier.
  • Other medications: Mesalamine (Asacol) and metronidazole (Flagyl) may reduce inflammation and bleeding.
  • Surgery: In some cases, people may need to undergo surgical procedures to correct severe ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s disease. 

A doctor may administer the above medications orally, deliver them through a vein, or apply them directly to the skin. Another option is administering by enema, which involves inserting the medications directly into the rectum.

Natural remedies for proctitis

Sometimes, certain lifestyle adjustments can also help you manage the symptoms. However, you should always contact a doctor for the best and most effective treatment plan.

Natural remedies that a doctor might recommend can include:

  • cutting back on spicy, acidic, and fatty foods
  • drinking plenty of fluids
  • avoiding caffeine
  • discussing safe sex methods with a clinician
  • avoiding alcohol fructose 
  • avoiding dairy products, such as ice cream
  • eating more foods that are rich in vitamin C and E, such as tomato and sweet pepper
  • getting more omega-3 fatty acids by eating foods such as salmon, nuts, and seeds

You may also find sitz baths helpful in easing certain symptoms. These involve soaking the rectal area in a tub of warm water.

Always remember to talk with a doctor before adding any supplements to your diet or making any dietary changes.

Learn about foods that may help ease diarrhea.

Outlook for proctitis

Many types of proctitis are treatable Trusted Source PubMed Central Highly respected database from the National Institutes of Health Go to source

However, it is important to report the symptoms as early as possible for the best possible outcome.

Also, try to follow your doctor’s treatment plan as closely as possible.

Diagnosing proctitis

Diagnosis will typically begin with a few questions on your symptoms and medical history.

The doctor will want to know when you first saw changes. They will also ask about any past or present medical conditions. 

Lastly, they will perform some tests, such as:

  • Digital rectal exam: The doctor will use a gloved, lubricated finger to examine your rectum.
  • Blood test: This test investigates your blood for signs of infection.
  • Stool test: This test checks your fecal matter for signs of bacterial or viral activity.
  • Colonoscopy: The doctor will use a long, flexible tube to examine your bowels.

Proctitis can occur as a short-term or long-term complication of many different conditions. These include:

  • Syphilis: This chronic bacterial infection spreads through sex without barrier protection. The symptoms can include weight loss, fever, and wart-like lesions in the groin. 
  • Genital herpes: The herpes simplex virus (HSV) causes this common STI. It can leave painful, blistering sores on or around the genitals, rectum, and mouth.
  • Chlamydia: This is an STI that results from a bacterium known as Chlamydia trachomatis. It commonly causes painful urination and discharge from the genitals.
  • Nicolas-Favre disease: This refers to the infection of the lymph vessels and lymph nodes. Related symptoms include pain in the anal area, constipation, and bloody stools.
  • Radiation proctitis: This is when the rectum becomes damaged or injured due to radiation therapy. It can cause rectal inflammation.

It is important to seek treatment if you suspect any of these conditions.

Summary

Proctitis is inflammation of the rectum. It can result from radiation therapy, IBD, and STIs, among other causes.

People with the condition will typically experience a constant urge to have a bowel movement. They may also experience diarrhea and rectal pain.

A doctor may ask about your medical history to diagnose the condition. They may also perform some tests, such as stool tests and blood tests.

Treatments focus on addressing the underlying cause, and the options include immunosuppressants, corticosteroids, and antibiotics. The doctor may also recommend home remedies, such as sitz baths and drinking plenty of fluids.

Anyone experiencing the symptoms of proctitis should seek a diagnosis and treatment.

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Medical Reviewer: Alana Biggers, M.D., MPH
Last Review Date: 2022 Aug 19
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