Written on July 28, 2023 by Lori Mulligan, MPH. To give you technically accurate, evidence-based information, content published on the Everlywell blog is reviewed by credentialed professionals with expertise in medical and bioscience fields.
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Proctitis is inflammation of the lining of the rectum, and it can be acute or chronic. Experts have identified several types of proctitis, including proctitis in inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), infectious proctitis, radiation proctitis, and diversion proctitis.
Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis cause chronic inflammation in different parts of your bowels. Up to 30% of people affected by one of these diseases experience inflammation primarily in their rectum. This is the most common cause of proctitis overall.
STIs can reach your rectum through your anus, including:
These infections can affect people who have anal-receptive sexual contact.
Bacterial infections from food poisoning in your intestines may occasionally affect your rectum, including:
The bacterium Clostridioides difficile (also known as C. diff) may infect your intestines, including your rectum, if you’ve recently finished a course of antibiotics. C. diff lives in your intestines already, but antibiotics can upset the balance of your gut microbiome by killing off the other bacteria that would normally help to control it.
Infants who have an intolerance to certain food proteins — usually dairy milk or soy — may develop inflammation anywhere in their intestines, including in their rectum. Babies may ingest these proteins through infant formulas or through breast milk if their breastfeeding parent ingested them.
Radiation can cause radiation mucositis anywhere in your gastrointestinal tract. That means that the mucous lining inside your gastrointestinal (GI) tract becomes inflamed.
Radiation enteritis and radiation colitis are common when you have targeted radiation to your upper or lower abdomen. You can get radiation proctitis if you have targeted radiation to your pelvic area.
Common symptoms of proctitis include diarrhea or constipation, pain, and passing blood, mucus, or pus with your stool. It may also cause tenesmus, which is the feeling that you need to pass stools even though your bowels are already empty. It may involve straining, pain, and cramping.
Healthcare providers will ask about your medical history, perform a physical exam, and order tests to diagnose proctitis and find the cause. Tests for proctitis may include blood tests, stool tests, a rectal culture, and endoscopy tests such as colonoscopy or flexible sigmoidoscopy.
Treatment for proctitis depends on the underlying cause of the inflammation.
Your provider may recommend medications to treat your infection. Options may include:
Mild cases of radiation proctitis may not require treatment. In other cases, radiation proctitis can cause severe pain and bleeding that requires treatment. Your provider may recommend treatments such as:
Treatment of proctitis related to Crohn's disease or ulcerative colitis is aimed at reducing the inflammation in your rectum. Treatment may include:
Proctitis that isn't treated or that doesn't respond to treatment may lead to complications, including:
Researchers have found that a high detection rate of asymptomatic radiation proctitis suggests the utility of a total colonoscopy to screen for early-stage colorectal cancer prior to or following radiotherapy for prostate cancer. 
To increase awareness of potential colorectal cancer, Everlywell offers an at-home screening kit. Your test results will show you if you are negative or positive for blood in your stool. A positive result does not mean that you have colon cancer—it simply means you need to share the results with your healthcare provider to discuss the next steps, which may include a colonoscopy.
Everlywell’s Fecal Immunochemical Test (FIT) looks for hidden (also called occult) blood in your stool. Since colorectal polyps (which may be precancerous) can leak blood during the passage of stool, this non-invasive screening method is recommended by many physicians and public health organizations as an important way to catch colon cancer early so it can be treated.
Everlywell also offers a telehealth option that gives you quick access to an online STD consultation with a clinician to discuss testing, treatment, and more.