Proctitis refers to excessive inflammation of the rectal mucosa, the inner lining tissue of the rectum. The rectum is a muscular tube and a part of the lower gastro-intestinal system that connects the last part of the colon to the anus. The main function of the rectum is to pass the stool out of the body.
It can be extremely painful and uncomfortable and can give you the continuous urge to have a bowel movement. The inflammation can occur due to several reasons which may result in either a short bout of proctitis or a more long-term disorder.
Proctitis can be categorised into 3 types, including:
Diversion proctitis: This type of proctitis occurs due to a colon surgery done in some people to direct the passage of stool to some other surgically created opening rather the rectum.
Food Protein-Induced Proctitis: An allergic reaction in infants who drink cow’s milk or some soy-based formula or those who are breastfed by mothers. Consuming either product can lead to food protein-based proctitis.
Eosinophilic Proctitis: An accumulation of white blood cells, specifically the eosinophils in the inner lining of the rectum can cause this type of proctitis. It usually affects children below the age of 2.
The inflammation of the rectum lining can occur due to several health conditions, including:
Inflammatory Bowel Disease: One of the most common causes of proctitis is a type of inflammatory bowel disease like Ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s disease.
Infectious Conditions: STI’s like gonorrhea, genital herpes and chlamydia or foodborne infections due to Salmonella, shigella and campylobacter, also can cause proctitis.
Radiation Therapy: Radiation therapy conducted at or near the rectal area such as in the case of prostate, ovarian, anal, or rectal cancer can lead to proctitis during the treatment or several years after the process.
Medications: Certain antibiotics used to treat an infection can actually kill the good bacteria in the bowels allowing the harmful ones such as Clostridium difficile bacteria to grow in the rectum causing inflammation and proctitis.
Trauma: An injury in the anal canal due to sexual activities, or excessive use of enemas can lead to this inflamed condition.
The primary symptom of proctitis due to inflammation of the rectum and rectal lining is tenesmus, a continuous feeling or urge to defecate or have a bowel motion. Other common signs and symptoms include:
- Rectal bleeding
- Intense pain in the rectum and anal region
- Pain on the left side of the abdomen
- A feeling of constant fullness in the rectum
- Mucous discharge through the rectum
- Watery diarrhea
- Loose stools
- Pain while passing the bowel
- Swollen lymph nodes in the groin region
If this inflamed is left untreated for a longer time period, it can often get complicated and cause:
Diagnosis And Treatment
If you have any of the above-mentioned signs or symptoms, do visit a doctor right away. The doctor usually does a thorough physical checkup to look for any pain in the abdominal region, acknowledges the patient’s past medical and surgical history and conducts some diagnostics. These include:
- Blood Test
- Stool Test
- Sigmoidoscopy (scope exam to examine the last part of the colon, i.e. sigmoid)
- Colonoscopy (scope exam to analyse the entire colon)
- Test for examining sexually transmitted infections
The chief purpose for the treatment of proctitis is to reduce inflammation, control pain, and treat the infection. It usually depends on the severity of the condition and the ultimate causative factor that leads to proctitis.
- In case of proctitis caused by an infection, the doctor usually prescribes for antibiotics and antivirals to subdue the microbe causing the infection.
- In case of proctitis caused due to radiation therapy, the doctor usually prescribes for anti-inflammatory medications in the form of pill, enema or suppository. The doctor may also conduct procedures to remove the damaged tissue and provide stool softeners to help open up obstructions in the bowel.
- In case of proctitis stemming from inflammatory bowel disease, the doctor usually prescribes anti-inflammatory medications to control rectal inflammation, and can even suggest a surgical procedure to completely remove the damaged portion of the digestive tract.