What Is Proctitis?

Proctitis is an inflammation of the rectum. Located at the lower portion of the digestive tract, the rectum connects the large intestine (colon) to the anus, where fecal matter exits the body. Inflammation may occur owing to a variety of causes; symptoms vary according to the cause and the severity of the inflammation.

Proctitis usually responds well to treatment, except in cases caused by genital herpes, as there is currently no cure for herpes. However, in such cases treatment may relieve symptoms, and episodes tend to become milder over time.

What Causes Proctitis?

  • Inflammatory bowel disease, which may affect much of the lower digestive tract, may cause proctitis (ulcerative colitis, Crohn’s disease).
  • A bacterial or viral infection, including dysentery, gonorrhea, syphilis, chlamydia, and genital herpes, may cause proctitis
  • Anal intercourse may lead to proctitis, either by injuring the anus or rectum or by spreading sexually transmitted infections.
  • Rare causes of proctitis include tuberculosis, amebiasis, and tissue damage due to radiation.
  • The cause of proctitis is sometimes unknown.

Symptoms of Proctitis

  • Painful, frequent bowel movements
  • Straining at stool (tenesmus)
  • Hematochezia
  • Rectal pain or bleeding, itching, and cramps
  • Bloody, pus- or mucus-filled discharge
  • Constipation or diarrhea
  • Fever
  • Blisters or open sores in or around the anus and rectum (due to bacterial or viral infection)
  • Pain in the lower back, difficulty in urination, and impotence (due to genital herpes)

Proctitis Diagnosis

  • Your doctor may perform a proctoscopy by passing an illuminated scope though the anus to allow a visual examination of the rectum.
  • A biopsy of the colon lining may be taken during proctoscopy.
  • A blood test for syphilis is taken if sexually transmitted proctitis is suspected.
  • Discharge of mucus or pus is cultured for bacteria and examined under a microscope.

Proctitis Prevention

Use latex condoms during sexual intercourse to reduce the risk of sexually transmitted disease.

How to Treat Proctitis

  • Antibiotics are prescribed to treat a bacterial infection and should be taken for the full term indicated.
  • Corticosteroid suppositories or mesalamine (suppositories or oral tablets) may be prescribed to treat proctitis due to inflammatory bowel disease.
  • Laser therapy may be performed to destroy newly formed blood vessels, thereby reducing inflammation and bleeding.
  • Treatment for herpes is aimed at relieving symptoms. The antiviral drug acyclovir may be prescribed in topical form to lessen severity and pain, and in oral form to lessen the length and frequency of outbreaks.
  • Over-the-counter pain relievers may be taken to reduce pain and inflammation.
  • Frequent warm baths may ease rectal discomfort.

When to Call a Doctor

Call a doctor if you develop discomfort or pain in the rectum or if bowel movements become difficult, painful, or bloody.


Johns Hopkins Symptoms and Remedies: The Complete Home Medical Reference

Simeon Margolis, M.D., Ph.D., Medical Editor

Prepared by the Editors of The Johns Hopkins Medical Letter: Health After 50

Updated by Remedy Health Media

Publication Review By: the Editorial Staff at HealthCommunities.com

Published: 27 Oct 2011

Last Modified: 02 Oct 2014