7 Conditions With Rectal Symptoms

Doctor William C Lloyd Healthgrades Medical Reviewer
Medically Reviewed By William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS
Written By Chris Illiades, MD on June 27, 2021
  • Middle-aged Latina doctor having conversation with patient in office
    Rectal symptoms like bleeding, pain and itching can be caused by many medical conditions.
    Because the rectum is part of the gastrointestinal tract, several digestive disorders can be causing your symptoms. Other conditions, such as pregnancy, constipation, infections, and rectal growths, can also lead to uncomfortable side effects. The medical term for swelling and irritation of the rectal area is "proctitis." Here are seven common causes.
  • Bacteria
    Infection of the digestive system can cause proctitis with symptoms like rectal pain, bleeding, mucus discharge, and loose or watery stools. Eating foods contaminated with bacteria is a common cause. Another is infection from sexually transmitted diseases in people who practice unsafe anal sex. You also may get proctitis when taking antibiotics if the medication kills normal bacteria and allows harmful bacteria to grow in the colon and rectum.
  • Man with stomach pain
    Constipation–when you don't have a bowel movement at least three times a week–can have many causes, such as not getting enough fiber in your diet, not drinking enough water, and not getting enough exercise. If constipation is frequent or long-lasting, it can cause rectal complications such as hemorrhoids and anal fissures. Hemorrhoids are painful, swollen rectal veins, and fissures are cracks or tears around the anus. Symptoms include itching, burning, and bleeding, especially after a bowel movement.
  • stomach ache
    Ulcerative Colitis
    Ulcerative colitis is a disease of the digestive system that attacks the colon and the rectal area. The exact cause is not known, but people with this disease may have an abnormal immune system (your body's built-in defense system) that mistakes normal bacteria in the colon for foreign invaders. Rectal symptoms may include bleeding, pus discharge from the anus, and diarrhea. Most people begin having symptoms between ages 15 and 30. Other symptoms include fever, abdominal cramps, and weight loss.
  • Close-up of woman's hand on stomach with toilet in background
    Crohn's Disease
    Ulcerative colitis and Crohn's disease are each a type of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). Like ulcerative colitis, Crohn's disease usually starts somewhere between the teen years and age 30. The cause is not known but probably has something to do with an abnormal immune system. People with Crohn's can have rectal bleeding and diarrhea. They may also have pain in the lower-right part of their abdomen, fever, and weight loss.
  • Worried senior woman comforting a sick elderly man
    Diverticula are small pouches that form inside the colon. These pouches become more common with age. If a pouch or pouches become inflamed, the disorder is called diverticulitis. The most common area for diverticulitis is in the part of the colon that empties into the rectum. Rectal symptoms can include constipation, cramps, and sometimes bleeding. Other symptoms are chills and fever.
  • growths in throat
    Rectal Polyps
    Rectal polyps are growths that form on the inside lining of the rectum. About 15% to 20% of adults will get colon or rectal polyps. Although there may be no symptoms, rectal polyps can cause pain, bleeding, and pus. A rectal polyp found during a routine checkup, or because of rectal symptoms, should be removed and examined under a microscope to determine if it is a benign (non-cancerous) growth. Although most rectal polyps are not cancerous, some rectal polyps can turn into rectal cancer.
  • pregnancy
    Being pregnant can cause rectal symptoms that include constipation, hemorrhoids, and rectal bleeding, especially during the later stages of pregnancy. As the baby grows, pressure builds up inside the blood vessels that supply and drain the rectum. Hormone changes during pregnancy slow down digestion and increase fluid retention, making rectal symptoms more likely.
  • Treatment
    Treatment of proctitis and other rectal symptoms depends on the cause. Proctitis from an infection may be treated with medication. Medications that fight inflammation or block the immune system may help people with IBD. Drinking plenty of fluids and eating a balanced diet with a healthy amount of fiber is often helpful. Symptoms caused by irritation and swelling often respond to over-the-counter aids, such as sprays, creams, and medicated pads. Do not allow potential feelings of embarrassment prevent you from getting the relief you need. Your doctor knows how best to help!​
7 Conditions With Rectal Symptoms

About The Author

  1. Ulcerative Colitis. National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse. National Institutes of Health. http://digestive.niddk.nih.gov/ddiseases/pubs/colitis/
  2. Constipation. National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse. National Institutes of Health. http://digestive.niddk.nih.gov/ddiseases/pubs/constipation/
  3. Crohn's Disease. National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse. National Institutes of Health. http://digestive.niddk.nih.gov/ddiseases/pubs/crohns/
  4. Diverticulosis and Diverticulitis. National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse. National Institutes of Health. http://digestive.niddk.nih.gov/ddiseases/pubs/diverticulosis/
  5. Proctitis. National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse. National Institutes of Health. http://digestive.niddk.nih.gov/ddiseases/pubs/proctitis/
  6. Polyps of the Colon and Rectum. American Society of Colon & Rectal Surgeons. http://www.fascrs.org/patients/conditions/polyps_of_the_colon_and_rectum/
  7. Common Discomforts During Pregnancy. University of Chicago Medicine. http://www.uchospitals.edu/online-library/content=P01207
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Last Review Date: 2021 Jun 27
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