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What Is Proctitis?

What Is Proctitis?

Proctitis is a condition in which when the lining tissue of the inner rectum becomes inflamed. The rectum is part of your lower digestive system. It’s located between your colon and anus. Stool passes through the rectum as it exits the body.

Proctitis can be painful and uncomfortable. You may feel a constant urge to defecate. The condition is usually treated with medications and lifestyle adjustments. Surgery is not generally necessary, except in the most severe, recurring cases.

What Causes Proctitis?

Proctitis is usually caused by underlying medical conditions. These include:

  • sexually transmitted infections (STIs)
  • inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), such as Crohn’s or ulcerative colitis
  • anal trauma, such as form vigorous anal sex
  • infections that aren’t sexually transmitted, such as bacterial infections like salmonella and shigella
  • rectal infections that occur after antibiotic use, such as from the bacteria Clostridium difficile 
  • radiation treatments for ovarian, rectal, or prostate cancer

About 30 percent of people who have inflammatory bowel disease also have proctitis at some point. Anal trauma can include injuries caused by the use of enemas or sex toys.

Proctitis Symptoms

The most common symptom of proctitis is called tenesmus. Tenesmus is a frequent urge to have a bowel movement. Inflammation and irritation of the rectum and rectal lining cause tenesmus.

Other symptoms of proctitis include:

  • pain in your rectum, anus, and abdominal region
  • bleeding from the rectum
  • passing of mucus from the rectum
  • very loose stools
  • watery diarrhea

Treatment Options for Proctitis

The goals of proctitis treatment are to reduce inflammation, control pain, and treat infection. Specific treatments depend on the cause of proctitis. Managing underlying conditions helps to relieve symptoms. Medications may be used to treat STIs or clear up symptoms. Surgery may be needed if you have ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s disease.


Several types of medication are used to treat proctitis:

  • Anti-inflammatory drugs, such as corticosteroids, reduce inflammation and provide pain relief.
  • Antibiotics and antifungals clear up STIs and other infections.
  • Immunosuppressants treat symptoms of Crohn’s disease and other autoimmune diseases.

Your doctor will prescribe medication based on the symptoms of your proctitis and its underlying cause. Medications may be taken orally, applied topically, or delivered by an enema. With an enema, treatment is placed directly into the rectum.

You may also be told to take sitz baths. A sitz bath delivers warm water to the inflamed area and can provide relief. Home health supply stores sell sitz bath pans. These fit over the toilet bowl.


You may eventually need surgery if you have ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s disease and frequent cases of proctitis. Ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease are two autoimmune diseases that affect your digestive tract.

Inflammation and sores in the digestive tract can cause severe pain, malnutrition, and weight loss. In some cases, removing the damaged area is the only effective treatment.

Lifestyle Adjustments to Relieve Proctitis

There are some simple lifestyle changes you can make that may help relieve proctitis pain.


A soft, bland diet can reduce proctitis pain. Avoid spicy, acidic, or fatty foods during bouts of diarrhea.

You may be intolerant to lactose. Try cutting down on dairy products and switching to alternative forms of milk.

Drink plenty of fluids, but avoid drinking caffeinated sodas, coffees, and teas. Drinking eases the passage of stool. It also helps prevents dehydration from frequent, loose stools. Caffeine can irritate your digestive system.

Track Your Symptoms

Pay attention to the timing of your symptoms. Keeping track of when your symptoms occur can help you narrow down any triggers for proctitis pain. For example, if you notice that your symptoms are worse after you eat dairy products, you can try switching to lactose-free milk or soymilk.

Use a Condom

Use a condom during anal sex. This reduces your risk of contracting an STI that can affect your rectum and cause proctitis.

Complications and Outlook

Most cases of proctitis are treated successfully with medication and lifestyle changes. In rare cases, proctitis can lead to complications. Possible complications include:

  • ulcers, which are open sores that develop in the rectum and colon
  • abscesses, which are pus-filled areas of infection
  • anemia, which is a deficiency of red blood cells caused by rectal bleeding

You can prevent complications by reporting all symptoms to your doctor as soon as possible. The earlier your proctitis is treated, the better your chances are of a full recovery.

Content licensed from:

Written by: Erica Roth
Published on: Aug 15, 2012
Medically reviewed on: May 16, 2017: Judith Marcin, MD

This feature is for informational purposes only and should not be used to replace the care and information received from your health care provider. Please consult a health care professional with any health concerns you may have.
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