Proctitis affects the rectum and sometimes the anus, causing the lining to become inflamed. People may use the terms “anus” and “rectum” interchangeably, but they really are two different places of the body. The rectum is the portion of large intestine that ends in the anus. Proctitis can be a very painful condition that is treatable if caught early enough.
Not getting proctitis treated can lead to serious health complications like anemia, ulcers in the intestines and growth of excruciating abscesses and fistulas. Although proctitis is usually a complication from a sexually transmitted disease, it can also be caused by a bad reaction to antibiotics, from radiation exposure and from injury to the anorectal region. Proctitis is also a common complication for patients with ulcerative colitis, salmonella, shingles, Crohn’s disease, or strep throat.
The most common symptom is a constant strong urge to defecate whether or not the body actually has any feces to pass. Even if this is the only symptom, call a doctor as soon as possible.
Other common symptoms for proctitis can be dramatic. They include pus or mucus from the anus; passing blood with or without stool; constipation or diarrhea; abdominal cramps; passing bowel movement which cause pain in the anus, rectum or abdomen; feeling as if there is something in the rectum that will not come out and swelling of the lymph glands in the groin.
Proctitis can be caused by radiation therapy for treatment of cancer, sexually transmitted infections, antibiotics, and inflammatory bowel disease (ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s disease). If you’ve had radiation therapy treatments for rectal, anal, ovarian, or prostate cancer, you are at a higher risk of proctitis. However, sexually transmitted infections (STIs) like chlamydia, syphilis, gonorrhea, or genital herpes most commonly lead to proctitis. Anal trauma from things like extreme anal sexual intercourse or the use of sex toys or enemas can also lead to proctitis.
Babies who drink soy-based formula or cow’s milk may be at risk of food protein-induced proctitis. Babies who are breastfed by a mother who consumes dairy products may also be prone to food protein-induced proctitis.
Eosinophilic proctitis is caused by the accumulation of a type of white blood cell called eosinophil. This type of proctitis only occurs in children under 2 years old.
A rectal infection from the bacteria Clostridium difficile can occur after the use of antibiotics, and subsequently lead to proctitis.
Treatment depends entirely on the cause of proctitis. For example, proctitis caused by STDs like syphilis and gonorrhea are treated with antibiotics. Proctitis caused by genital herpes needs antiviral medications since herpes is caused by a virus and not bacteria.
Proctitis goes away after radiation treatments. Before treatments are over, patients may be given medication like sucralfate or enemas containing corticosteroids, which help reduce inflammation.
Proctitis caused by injuries to the anus or rectum will not go away until the area has healed. Until then, painkillers and medications to stop diarrhea may help.
Proctitis caused by illnesses need the primary illness treated before the proctitis can be relieved. Until that time, medications given to help relieve symptoms include corticosteroids, immunomodulators and Aminosalicylates.
You can prevent proctitis by protecting yourself from STIs by abstaining from sex, or avoiding having anal sex and limiting your number of sexual partners. Using latex condoms during every sexual encounter is also important, as is avoiding having sex with anyone who has abnormal discharge coming from the genital area. Watch for any sores or bumps near the genitals as well.
If you happen to contract an STI, don’t have sex again until you’ve seen a doctor and received the proper treatment. You want to avoid passing an STI on to your partner or partners. Your doctor will let you know when it’s okay for you to have sex again.
You can also prevent proctitis by keeping a healthy bowel. Eating a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, seeds and nuts, as well as drinking plenty of water, can help you to avoid proctitis.