Rectal Symptoms

Is this your symptom?

  • Rash, pain, itching, swelling, and other symptoms of the rectal area (anus).

Some Basics...

  • The skin around the rectal area has a rich nerve supply. Pain or itching in this area can be intense.
  • Hemorrhoids (piles), anal fissures (skin cracks), and hard stools are the top causes of rectal pain. Diarrhea is another common cause.
  • Dried stool left on the rectal area can irritate the skin and cause itching.

Common Causes of Rectal Pain

  • Anal fissure (small crack or tear in skin of anus)
  • Fecal impaction
  • Hemorrhoids - thrombosed (clotted)
  • Perirectal abscess and fistula
  • Proctalgia fugax (severely painful muscle spasm of rectal area)
  • Sexually transmitted infection (such as herpes simplex)

Common Causes of Rectal Itching (Pruritis Ani)

  • Contact dermatitis (scented toilet products)
  • Foods (citrus fruit, coffee, spices, tomatoes)
  • Hemorrhoids
  • Pinworms
  • Poison ivy
  • Pruritis ani (itching with no other cause found)
  • Skin disorders (psoriasis, seborrhea, skin cancer)

When to Call for Rectal Symptoms

Call 911 Now

  • You think you have a life-threatening emergency

Call Doctor Now or Go to ER

  • Severe rectal pain
  • Rectal pain and fever
  • Rectal area redness and fever
  • Rectal pain because can't pass stool (blocked up feeling) and is not better with Care Advice
  • You feel weak or very sick
  • You think you need to be seen, and the problem is urgent

Call Doctor Within 24 Hours

  • Moderate to Severe rectal pain keeps you from working or going to school
  • Moderate to Severe rectal itching keeps you from working or going to school
  • Rectal pain is not better after using Care Advice
  • Rectal itching is not better after using Care Advice
  • Looks infected (draining sore, ulcer, or rash that is painful to touch)
  • You are worried about a sexually transmitted disease (STD)
  • Last stool was more than 3 days ago
  • You think you need to be seen, but the problem is not urgent

Call Doctor During Office Hours

  • Rectal pain lasts more than 3 days
  • Rectal pain off and on for weeks or months
  • Rectal itching lasts more than 7 days
  • Rectal itching off and on for weeks or months
  • Rectal lump
  • You have other questions or concerns

Self Care at Home

  • Mild rectal pain
  • Mild rectal itching
  • Rectal pain because can't pass stool (blocked up feeling)

Care Advice

Rectal Pain

  1. What You Should Know:
    • The skin around the rectal area has a rich nerve supply. Pain in this area can be intense.
    • Hemorrhoids (piles), anal fissures (skin cracks), and hard stools are the top causes of rectal pain.
    • You can treat pain from hemorrhoids, anal fissure, or hard stool at home.
    • Here is some care advice that should help.
  2. Warm SITZ Baths Twice a Day:
    • Sit in warm bath water for 20 minutes 2 times each day. This helps clean and heal the rectal area.
    • If you want, you can add ¼ cup (80 grams) of table salt or baking soda to each tub of water. Stir the water until it dissolves.
    • This is also called a Sitz bath.
  3. Hydrocortisone Ointment Twice a Day for Hemorrhoid Pain:
    • You can use 1% hydrocortisone ointment (Anusol HC) to decrease hemorrhoid pain and irritation.
    • Hydrocortisone is available over-the-counter at the drug store.
  4. Rectal Pain and Can't Have Can't Pass Stool (blocked up feeling):
    • SITZ Bath: Take a 20-minute bath in warm water. It often helps relax the anal sphincter and release the stool.
    • Glycerin Suppository: If the Sitz bath does not work, try 1 or 2 glycerin rectal suppositories.
    • Enema: An enema should be used rarely and only after other measures have not worked.
    • The rectal pain should be completely gone after using this Care Advice. If the pain does not go away, you will need to be seen.
  5. Stool Softener for Hard Bowel Movements:
    • If you have hard stools, stool softeners can help soften the stool. This can help decrease rectal pain when passing stool.
    • Docusate (Colace) is a stool softener that you can get over-the-counter.
  6. Call Your Doctor If:
    • Severe rectal pain
    • Rectal pain lasts over 3 days
    • You think you need to be seen
    • You get worse

Rectal Itching

  1. What You Should Know:
    • The rectum (anus) and skin around it have a rich nerve supply. Itching in this area can be intense.
    • Dried stool left on the rectal area can irritate the skin and can cause itching.
    • The main treatment for rectal itching is keeping the rectal area clean and dry. Avoid rubbing or scratching. Loose cotton underwear helps keep the area dry.
    • Here is some care advice that should help.
  2. Clean Area After Each Bowel Movement:
    • Clean the rectal area with warm water after each bowel movement.
    • Use wet cotton or tissue.
    • Pat the area dry using unscented toilet paper. Avoid rubbing area with toilet paper.
  3. Hydrocortisone Ointment Twice a Day for Itching:
    • You can use 1% hydrocortisone ointment (Anusol HC) to decrease itching.
    • Hydrocortisone is available over-the-counter at the drug store.
  4. Prevention:
    • Avoid scented toilet products.
    • Keep rectal area clean and dry.
  5. Call Your Doctor If:
    • Severe rectal itching
    • Rectal itching lasts over 3 days
    • You think you need to be seen
    • You get worse

Constipation

  1. What You Should Know:
    • Trouble passing a stool, hard stools, and infrequent stools are signs of constipation.
    • Healthy living habits can help treat and prevent constipation. Healthy habits include eating a diet high in fiber and regular exercise.
    • You can treat mild constipation at home.
    • Here is some care advice that should help.
  2. Eat a High Fiber Diet:
    • Slowly increase the amount of fiber in your diet. This will help soften your stools. Fiber works by holding more water in your stools.
    • Eat more fresh fruit and vegetables. They are great sources of natural fiber. This includes peas, prunes, citrus, apples, beans, and corn.
    • Eat more foods made from whole grains. Foods made from whole grains also have fiber. Examples are bran flakes, bran muffins, graham crackers, oatmeal, brown rice, and whole wheat bread. Popcorn is also a good source of fiber.
  3. Exercise:
    • Staying active is always a healthy choice.
    • Regular exercise decreases constipation.
    • Even a daily walk for 15 minutes helps.
  4. Call Your Doctor If:
    • Constipation lasts more than 2 weeks after using Care Advice
    • Stomach swelling, vomiting or fever occur
    • Constant or increasing stomach pain
    • You think you need to be seen
    • You get worse

Over-The-Counter (OTC) Medicines for Constipation

  1. Step-By-Step: A step-by-step approach to using OTC medicines for constipation is best.
  2. Step 1:
    • Fiber Laxatives, every day: You can take a fiber laxative instead of eating more fiber. An example of a fiber laxative is psyllium (Metamucil). Fiber can help soften your stools. Fiber works by holding more water in your stools. Be patient. Sometimes this takes a couple weeks before it starts to work.
    • Osmotic Laxatives, as needed: You can take milk of magnesia or polyethylene glycol (PEG, Miralax). This type of medicine helps pull water into your intestines. This softens the stools.
  3. Step 2:
    • If the constipation does get better with the Care Advice in Step 1, add a stimulant laxative.
    • Stimulant Laxatives: Use either bisacodyl (Dulcolax) or a glycerin suppository.
  4. Call Your Doctor If:
    • Constipation lasts more than 2 weeks after using Care Advice
    • Stomach swelling, vomiting or fever occur
    • Constant or increasing stomach pain
    • You think you need to be seen
    • You get worse

And remember, contact your doctor if you develop any of the 'Call Your Doctor' symptoms.

Disclaimer: This information is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice. It is provided for educational purposes only. You assume full responsibility for how you choose to use this information.


Last Reviewed: 10/18/2017 1:25:59 AM
Last Updated: 5/7/2017 1:36:17 PM

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