Merck Manual

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Parswa Ansari

, MD, Hofstra Northwell-Lenox Hill Hospital, New York

Reviewed/Revised Jan 2023

Proctitis is inflammation of the rectal mucosa, which may result from infection, inflammatory bowel disease, or radiation. Symptoms are rectal discomfort and bleeding. Diagnosis is by proctoscopy or sigmoidoscopy, usually with cultures and biopsy. Treatment depends on etiology.

Proctitis may be a manifestation of

Sexually transmitted pathogens cause proctitis more commonly among men who have sex with men. Recently, monkeypox Mpox (Monkeypox) Mpox (monkeypox)is caused by the monkeypox virus, an orthopoxvirus structurally related to the smallpox virus. Patients present with a vesicular or pustular rash that may be painful and... read more Mpox (Monkeypox) has been found to cause significant infectious proctitis in men who have sex with men.

Patients with immunocompromise are at particular risk of infections with herpes simplex and cytomegalovirus.

Symptoms and Signs of Proctitis

Typically, patients report tenesmus (a strong feeling of need to defecate when stool is not present), rectal bleeding, or passage of mucus.

Proctitis resulting from gonorrhea, herpes simplex, cytomegalovirus, or monkeypox may cause intense anorectal pain.

Diagnosis of Proctitis

  • Proctoscopy or sigmoidoscopy

  • Tests for sexually transmitted infections and C. difficile

Diagnosis of proctitis requires proctoscopy or sigmoidoscopy, which may reveal an inflamed rectal mucosa. Small discrete ulcers and vesicles suggest herpes infection. Rectal swabs should be tested for Neisseria gonorrhoeae and Chlamydia species (by culture or nucleic acid amplification test, such as PCR), enteric pathogens (by culture), and viral pathogens (by culture or immunoassay).

Colonoscopy may be valuable in some patients to rule out inflammatory bowel disease.

Treatment of Proctitis

  • Various treatments depending on cause

Infective proctitis can be treated with antibiotics. Patients who engage in anal-receptive intercourse who have nonspecific proctitis may be treated empirically with ceftriaxone 250 mg IM once, plus doxycycline 100 mg orally 2 times a day for 7 days. Antibiotic-associated proctitis due to C. difficile is treated with vancomycin 125 mg orally 4 times a day or fidaxomicin 200 mg orally 2 times a day for 10 days.

Radiation proctitis that is bleeding is usually treated initially with a topical drug; however, evidence of efficacy from well-done studies is lacking. Topical treatments include corticosteroids as foam (hydrocortisone 90 mg) or enemas (hydrocortisone 100 mg or methylprednisolone 40 mg) 2 times a day for 3 weeks, or sucralfate retention enemas (2 g in 20 mL water 2 times a day) may also be effective. Patients unresponsive to these forms of therapy may benefit from topical application of formalin, or from hyperbaric oxygen therapy Recompression Therapy Recompression therapy is administration of 100% oxygen for up to several hours in a sealed chamber pressurized to at least 1.9 (usually 1.9 to 3.0) atmospheres, gradually lowered to atmospheric... read more .

Endoscopic therapies may be used. Argon plasma coagulation seems effective in reducing symptoms at least in the short term (≤ 6 weeks). Other methods of coagulation include lasers, electrocoagulation, and heater probes. (See also the American Society of Colon and Rectal Surgeons' 2018 clinical practice guidelines for the treatment of chronic radiation proctitis.)

More Information

The following English-language resource may be useful. Please note that THE MANUAL is not responsible for the content of this resource.

Drugs Mentioned In This Article

Drug Name Select Trade
Ceftrisol Plus, Rocephin
Acticlate, Adoxa, Adoxa Pak, Avidoxy, Doryx, Doxal, Doxy 100, LYMEPAK, Mondoxyne NL, Monodox, Morgidox 1x, Morgidox 2x , Okebo, Oracea, Oraxyl, Periostat, TARGADOX, Vibramycin, Vibra-Tabs
FIRVANQ, Vancocin, Vancocin Powder, VANCOSOL
A-Hydrocort, Ala-Cort, Ala-Scalp, Alkindi, Anucort-HC, Anumed-HC, Anusol HC, Aquaphor Children's Itch Relief, Aquaphor Itch Relief, Balneol for Her, Caldecort , Cetacort, Colocort , Cortaid, Cortaid Advanced, Cortaid Intensive Therapy, Cortaid Sensitive Skin, CortAlo, Cortef, Cortenema, Corticaine, Corticool, Cortifoam, Cortizone-10, Cortizone-10 Cooling Relief, Cortizone-10 External Itch Relief, Cortizone-10 Intensive Healing, Cortizone-10 Plus, Cortizone-10 Quick Shot, Cortizone-5 , Dermarest Dricort, Dermarest Eczema, Dermarest Itch Relief, Encort, First - Hydrocortisone, Gly-Cort , GRx HiCort, Hemmorex-HC, Hemorrhoidal-HC, Hemril , Hycort, Hydro Skin, Hydrocortisone in Absorbase, Hydrocortone, Hydroskin , Hydroxym, Hytone, Instacort, Lacticare HC, Locoid, Locoid Lipocream, MiCort-HC , Monistat Complete Care Instant Itch Relief Cream, Neosporin Eczema, NuCort , Nutracort, NuZon, Pandel, Penecort, Preparation H Hydrocortisone, Proctocort, Proctocream-HC, Procto-Kit, Procto-Med HC , Procto-Pak, Proctosert HC , Proctosol-HC, Proctozone-HC, Rectacort HC, Rectasol-HC, Rederm, Sarnol-HC, Scalacort, Scalpicin Anti-Itch, Solu-Cortef, Texacort, Tucks HC, Vagisil Anti-Itch, Walgreens Intensive Healing, Westcort
A-Methapred, Depmedalone-40, Depmedalone-80 , Depo-Medrol, Medrol, Medrol Dosepak, Solu-Medrol
NOTE: This is the Professional Version. CONSUMERS: View Consumer Version
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