Experts estimate that up to 1.3 million people in the United States suffer from inflammatory bowel diseases, which include Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis. Around 238 people in every 100,000 suffer with ulcerative colitis, which can also increase the risk of other health problems, including an inflammatory condition called proctitis. Find out how proctitis affects the body, and learn more about the link between this condition, sexual activity and ulcerative colitis.
How proctitis affects the body
Proctitis occurs when the lining of the lower intestine (rectum) and the anus become inflamed. The condition normally only affects the last six inches of the rectum, but the symptoms can cause significant pain and discomfort. Proctitis may occur for a short period, but some people with the condition suffer chronic symptoms on an ongoing basis.
Proctitis symptoms include:
Pain during bowel movements
Soreness and tenderness in the anus or rectum
Bleeding and/or discharge
Spasms and cramps during bowel movements
It's also quite common to feel as though you haven't adequately emptied your bowels after a bowel movement.
Causes of the condition
Proctitis often occurs as a result of a sexually-transmitted infection. Diseases like gonorrhea, syphilis, herpes and chlamydia can all cause proctitis. What's more, you're at higher risk of sexually-transmitted proctitis if you practice oral to anal sex or anal intercourse without a condom. In turn, people with ulcerative colitis and other autoimmune diseases are at even higher risk because their bodies are unable to fight off the infection.
Nonetheless, there are several other ways to develop proctitis, and you cannot immediately assume the disease is sexually transmitted. Other bacterial infections like salmonella can also cause the condition. Some treatment methods can also cause proctitis. For example, radiation therapy for rectal or prostate cancer can also cause proctitis.
Ulcerative colitis itself can also cause proctitis. People with ulcerative colitis experience painful ulcers and inflammation in their lower intestine. Over time, these symptoms can turn into chronic proctitis.
Diagnosis and treatment for sexually-transmitted proctitis
It's vital that your doctor accurately diagnoses the cause of proctitis, as this can make a big difference to the treatment method that is most likely to improve your symptoms. While many people with proctitis develop the condition without catching a sexually-transmitted disease, your doctor will need to carry out special tests to make sure he or she correctly identifies a sexually-transmitted infection.
For example, proctitis that occurs because of gonorrhea will generally present symptoms that resemble any other proctitis infection. However, a doctor should look for evidence of discharge from the anus that could isolate gonorrhea as the cause of the problem. From here, a doctor will need to ask for special tests, which can pinpoint the bacteria that cause gonorrhea. An accurate diagnosis will then allow your doctor to prescribe the right type of antibiotics.
As such, even though your doctor may already know you have ulcerative colitis, you should still talk to him or her about sexual activities that could increase the risk of infection. Without the right treatment, these infections can cause other symptoms. You should also remember that your ulcerative colitis already weakens your immune system, so you need to make sure you get extra help to fight off an infection.
Antibiotics and medication can target the main cause of your proctitis, but other methods can help you control and ease the symptoms. The medication your doctor prescribes for your ulcerative colitis will also often help you control proctitis. For example, corticosteroids can quickly ease inflammation in your rectum, which, in turn, can help calm proctitis symptoms.
The increased risk of infection means that ulcerative colitis sufferers should take extra steps to prevent proctitis. Safe sex practices (including the use of condoms) are essential if you have multiple sexual partners and/or a history of sexually-transmitted infections. Anal sex increases the risk of proctitis even if you use a condom, due to the increased risk of anal trauma, which can also cause the condition.
Proctitis is an unpleasant and painful condition that you can catch through sexual activity. People with ulcerative colitis are at higher risk of infection for several reasons, so it's important to talk to your doctor if you spot any possible symptoms. Many clinics offer free STD testing, which is a good idea to consider if you're unsure whether your proctitis is caused by an STD.
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