Tests and procedures used to diagnose proctitis include:
- Blood tests. These can detect blood loss or infections.
- Stool test. You may be asked to collect a stool sample for testing. A stool test may help determine if your proctitis is caused by a bacterial infection.
- Scope exam of the final portion of your colon. During a flexible sigmoidoscopy, your doctor uses a slender, flexible, lighted tube to examine the sigmoid, the last part of your colon — including the rectum. During the procedure, your doctor can also take small samples of tissue (biopsy) for laboratory analysis.
- Scope exam of your entire colon. A colonoscopy allows your doctor to view your entire colon using a thin, flexible, lighted tube with an attached camera. Your doctor can also take a biopsy during this test.
Testing for sexually transmitted infections. This involves obtaining a sample of discharge from your rectum or from the tube that drains urine from your bladder (urethra).
If the cause of your proctitis is likely to be an STI, your doctor may insert a narrow swab into the end of your urethra or anus to obtain the sample, which is then tested for the presence of bacteria or other infectious organisms. The results can be used to select the most effective treatment.
Treatment for proctitis depends on the underlying cause of the inflammation.
Treatment for proctitis caused by an infection
Your doctor may recommend medications to treat your infection. Options may include:
- Antibiotics. For proctitis caused by bacterial infections, your doctor may recommend an antibiotic, such as doxycycline (Periostat, Vibramycin).
- Antivirals. For proctitis caused by viral infections, such as the sexually transmitted virus herpes, your doctor may prescribe an antiviral medication, such as acyclovir (Sitavig, Zovirax, others).
Treatment for proctitis caused by radiation therapy
Mild cases of radiation proctitis may not require treatment. In other cases, radiation proctitis can cause severe pain and bleeding that requires treatment. Your doctor may recommend treatments such as:
- Medications. Medications are given in pill, suppository or enema form. They include sucralfate (Carafate), mesalamine (Asacol, Canasa, others) and sulfasalazine (Azulfidine), and metronidazole (Flagyl). These medications can help control inflammation and reduce bleeding.
- Stool softeners and dilation. These can help open up obstructions in the bowel.
- Treatment to destroy damaged tissue. These techniques improve proctitis symptoms by destroying abnormal tissue (ablation) that is bleeding. Ablation procedures used to treat proctitis include argon plasma coagulation (APC), electrocoagulation and other therapies.
Proctitis caused by inflammatory bowel disease
Treatment of proctitis related to Crohn's disease or ulcerative colitis is aimed at reducing the inflammation in your rectum. Treatment may include:
- Medications to control rectal inflammation. Your doctor may prescribe anti-inflammatory medications, either by mouth or as a suppository or enema — such as mesalamine (Asacol, Canasa, others) — or corticosteroids — such as prednisone (Rayos) or budesonide (Entocort EC, Uceris). Inflammation in people with Crohn's disease often requires treatment with a medication that suppresses the immune system, such as azathioprine (Azasan, Imuran) or infliximab (Remicade).
- Surgery. If drug therapy doesn't relieve your signs and symptoms, your doctor may recommend surgery to remove a damaged portion of your digestive tract.
Lifestyle and home remedies
For temporary relief of mild pain and inflammation, try the following self-care measures:
- Ask your doctor before using over-the-counter (OTC) diarrhea medicines. Don't take OTC anti-diarrhea drugs, such as loperamide (Imodium A-D), without your doctor's OK.
- Avoid food just before bedtime. Eating just before going to bed may stimulate your digestive system and cause you to have bowel movements and discomfort at night.
- Take over-the-counter pain relievers. Acetaminophen (Tylenol, others) may be helpful, but ask your doctor before taking aspirin or ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin IB, others), as in some cases these may make your proctitis worse.
- Use a sitz bath with warm water. A sitz bath fits over the toilet. You can get one at a medical supply store or some pharmacies. This may provide some comfort if you experience anal inflammation.
Preparing for your appointment
Start by seeing your family doctor or a general practitioner if you have rectal pain or bleeding, or if you continuously feel the need to have a bowel movement. If your doctor suspects you may have proctitis, you may be referred to a doctor who specializes in diseases of the digestive system (gastroenterologist).
Here's some information to help you get ready and to know what to expect from your doctor.
What you can do
- Be aware of any pre-appointment restrictions. At the time you make the appointment, be sure to ask if there's anything you need to do in advance, such as restrict your diet.
- Write down any symptoms you're experiencing, including any that may seem unrelated to the reason for which you scheduled the appointment.
- Write down key personal information, including any major stresses or recent life changes.
- Make a list of all medications, as well as any vitamins or supplements, that you're taking.
- Take a family member or friend along to help you remember everything you and your doctor talked about.
- Write down questions to ask your doctor.
Questions to ask your doctor
- Is proctitis causing my symptoms or condition?
- What are possible causes for my proctitis?
- What kinds of tests do I need?
- What are my treatment options?
- What are the benefits and risks of each treatment option?
- I have these other health conditions. How can I best manage them together?
- Are there any restrictions that I need to follow?
- Is there a generic alternative to the medicine you're prescribing?
- Are there any brochures or other printed material that I can take with me? What websites do you recommend?
- What will determine whether I should plan for a follow-up visit?
Don't hesitate to ask other questions.
June 12, 2015
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