Proctitis Treatment and Prevention

Medically reviewed by: Gary H. Hoffman, MD


It’s easy to take your health for granted. Most of us eat meals at least three times a day plus snacks, and make a few trips to the bathroom once the food has been digested, nutrients absorbed, and waste produced. But when your gastrointestinal system is compromised in some way, a trip to the bathroom can leave you feeling concerned and worried about your health. One common condition related to bowel health is called proctitis.  Your colon and rectal surgeon, also known as a proctologist, can answer your questions about proctitis.

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What is Proctitis?

If you have proctitis, the last six inches of your rectum connected to the large intestine will be affected, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Patients with proctitis have inflammation in the lining of the rectum and experience rectal pain and bleeding. Symptoms include difficulty having a bowel movement, abdominal cramping (often on the left side), diarrhea, rectal bleeding, and mucus discharge during bowel movements. Patients with proctitis also frequently report feeling full or not being able to adequately complete a bowel movement. Fortunately, treatment of proctitis is generally successful in most patients.

What Causes Proctitis?

While there are multiple factors that can cause proctitis, the a common cause of this condition is sexual intercourse with an infected partner. Proctitis is frequently a side effect of a sexually transmitted disease such as gonorrhea, chlamydia, herpes, or syphilis. Anal intercourse or anal use of a foreign object such as a sex toy can also damage the lining of the rectum and anus and lead to proctitis. While sexual practices are typically the most common cause of proctitis, some patients have developed proctitis from other types of bacterial infections, inflammatory bowel disease, and radiation therapy for cancer treatments in the pelvic area. In rare cases, use of certain antibiotics has also been linked to proctitis.

How is Proctitis Diagnosed?

If you have symptoms similar to proctitis, you should see a doctor. Without treatment proctitis may lead to a ongoing loss of blood, intestinal ulcers, and other problems that interfere with bowel health. If your doctor suspects you may have proctitis based on the symptoms you describe, he/she will perform a full history and physical examination. Your doctor may also order lab tests such as a blood test to check for infection, a stool sample to identify existing bacteria, and tests to determine if you have a sexually transmitted disease.

Your doctor may also recommend the use of diagnostic procedures such as an anoscopy, sigmoidoscopy or colonoscopy to get better view of the colon and rectum.

What Proctitis Treatment Options are Available?

If you develop proctitis, your doctor can help. Fortunately, proctitis remedies and treatment options help most people regain normal bowel health within a few weeks.  In most cases, antibiotics and anti-inflammatory medications are prescribed to treat proctitis.  Antibiotics will help eliminate bacteria and anti-viral medications may also be prescribed to treat the symptoms of some sexually transmitted diseases. If anal penetration was the root cause of proctitis, you should avoid this sexual practice until your rectum has healed.

In some cases steroid enemas or suppositories are used to treat proctitis and help control inflammation.  In extremely rare cases, the inflamed part of the lower digestive tract is surgically removed to treat proctitis.

What Practices can Help Prevent Proctitis?

The best proctitis cure starts with prevention and safe sexual practices. If you do engage in sexual activity, you should use a condom. Any kind of anal trauma from sexual activity or a foreign object increases your risk for proctitis. And many common sexually transmitted diseases can lead to proctitis.

Eating a healthy diet with fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds, legumes, and whole grains, along with drinking plenty of water can also protect your bowel health. And if you have inflammatory bowel disease and develop proctitis, following strict dietary guidelines and taking medication as prescribed can help.

Los Angeles Colon and Rectal Surgical Associates

The board certified surgeons of Los Angeles Colon and Rectal Surgical Associates are available to help diagnose and treat proctitis, as well as all diseases of the colon, rectum and anus.    By calling (310)273-2310, you can schedule a confidential consultation and begin treating your symptoms.

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