Jennifer was relieved when her doctor handed her a prescription for an antibiotic after she had suffered for weeks with a respiratory infection. By the next night, she felt like a different person. However, a few weeks later, she started experiencing rectal bleeding. After going through thousands of dollars of tests, she learned that the antibiotics had cured her infection but had left her with a disorder known as proctitis.
Proctitis is an inflammation of the rectal mucosa, commonly called the lining of the rectum. According to the National Digestive Diseases Clearinghouse (NDDIC), the disorder can be either short- or long-term.
There are many potential causes of proctitis. Among the most common are radiation therapy, antibiotics, and inflammation connected to either Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis. Some patients develop the inflammation as the result of sexually transmitted diseases such as herpes, chlamydia, and gonorrhea.
Less likely culprits are allergies, food-borne infections like salmonella, problems with rectal nerves, and rectal injury. The Mayo Clinic reports that when radiation therapy is the cause, proctitis can occur as long as years after the treatment is finished.
Although the experience of each patient with proctitis might vary, several signs and symptoms are fairly common. One of the most often reported is a frequent or continual feeling that an individual needs to go to the bathroom. Many patients report rectal bleeding or passing mucus through the rectum.
Other typical symptoms include diarrhea, pain on the left side of the abdomen, a feeling of fullness, rectal pain, and pain that occurs with bowel movements.
Among the complications that can develop are anemia, rectal ulcers, and fistulas.
Depending on the results of initial laboratory tests, a family doctor or other health care provider might refer a patient with the symptoms of proctitis to a gastroenterologist for further evaluation. A stool test should reveal if a bacterial infection is the culprit.
After testing for sexually transmitted diseases, a physician might elect to use a scope to examine the sigmoid, which is the last two feet of the colon. This procedure often involves taking biopsies for analysis under a microscope.
During a colonoscopy, a gastroenterologist is able to view the patient’s entire colon with the use of thin, lighted tube.
The type of treatment appropriate for proctitis is directly linked to its cause. Doctors prescribe antibiotics to cure bacterial infections. For sexually transmitted causes like herpes, an antiviral medication is often appropriate.
When a patient has developed just a mild inflammation as the result of radiation therapy for cancer, the disorder might not require medical treatment. However, for more severe bouts, doctors prescribe steroids and anti-inflammatory drugs to control bleeding and cut inflammation. Most of these medications are available in several forms, such as pills, enemas, and suppositories.
In order to improve, some patients need to have bleeding tissue destroyed. The two standard techniques to accomplish this are laser therapy and argon plasma coagulation.
For individuals with Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis, which are the two types of inflammatory bowel disease, the first course of treatment for proctitis is anti-inflammatory medications such as Asacol or corticosteroids. Most of these drugs can be prescribed as pills, enemas, or suppositories. When medical intervention fails to calm the inflammation, surgery to remove affected tissue is sometimes the appropriate alternative.
Patients suffering from proctitis can also take some self-help steps at home. Among them are steering clear of eating right before going to bed and taking advantage of a warm sitz bath for increased comfort.
It’s also wise to consult a health care provider before taking any non-prescription medications for diarrhea. Making use of over-the-counter pain relievers like Tylenol or Motrin can provide relief for many patients. However, those who suffer from colitis should make sure to check with a doctors first, since some of these medications cause inflammation to worsen.