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Proctitis is a digestive disease in which the inner lining of the rectum, called rectal mucosa, is inflamed. It can be acute (short term) or chronic (long term) proctitis.


There are several causes of proctitis. Sometimes inflammation of the rectum is caused by sexually transmitted diseases, such as herpes, gonorrhea, or chlamydia. In other cases, the condition is associated with autoimmune digestive conditions causing inflammation in the colon or small intestine like ulcerative colitis or Crohn's disease. Proctitis may also be the result of certain medical treatments, such as radiation therapy or antibiotics.

Other causes of proctitis may include:

  • injury to the rectum (rectal injury)
  • bacterial infection
  • malfunctioning nerves in the rectum
  • allergies


The most common symptom of proctitis is frequent or continuous urge to have a bowel movement. Other symptoms may include:
  • constipation
  • a feeling of rectal fullness
  • left-sided abdominal pain
  • passage of mucus through the rectum
  • bleeding in the rectum
  • pain in the rectum or anus (anorectal pain)


Physicians diagnose proctitis by looking inside the rectum with a proctoscope or a sigmoidoscope. A biopsy (a tiny piece of tissue from the rectum) may be removed and tested for diseases or infections. A stool sample may also reveal infecting bacteria. If the physician suspects Crohn's disease or ulcerative colitis, colonoscopy or barium enema x rays may be used to examine areas of the intestine.


Treatment of proctitis depends on the specific cause. For example, the physician may prescribe antibiotics for proctitis caused by bacterial infection. If the inflammation is caused by Crohn's disease or ulcerative colitis, the physician may recommend the drug 5-aminosalicyclic acid (5ASA) or corticosteroids applied directly to the area in enema or suppository form, or taken orally in pill form. Enema and suppository applications are usually more effective, but some patients may require a combination of oral and rectal applications.

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National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse (NDDIC). Proctitis (NIH Publication No. 05–4627, March 2005) . Accessed on September 25, 2010.

Page Last Revised: December 4, 2010

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