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Parswa Ansari

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

Last full review/revision Feb 2021| Content last modified Feb 2021
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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 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. Immunocompromised patients 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, or cytomegalovirus may cause intense anorectal pain.

Diagnosis of Proctitis

  • Proctoscopy or sigmoidoscopy

  • Tests for sexually transmitted diseases 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 ligase chain reaction), 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 several hours in a sealed chamber pressurized to > 1 atmosphere, gradually lowered to atmospheric pressure. In divers, this therapy... 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' clinical practice guidelines for the treatment of chronic radiation proctitis.)

More Information

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

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A 32-year-old woman who is at 30 weeks’ gestation comes to the office because she has had pain on defecation during the past week. She says she also has had pain when attempting to cleanse the anal region as well as pain when sitting. Based on these findings, which of the following types of hemorrhoid is most likely to be noted on further evaluation of this patient?  
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