Ano-rectal Syndromes

Proctitis |


Anal discharge and/or pain are typical symptoms of proctitis.

Possible causes

Clinical presentation

Anal discharge
Mucopurulent or light blood staining. May be subtle.
Anal pain
Often accompanied by spasm. May preclude proctoscopy.
Perianal ulcers and systemic features
If present suggest herpes  or syphilis
Altered bowel habit Constipation predominates in proctitis. Alternating constipation and diarrhoea occurs in proctocolitis.
Tenesmus Sensation of needing to pass stools indicates inflammation of anal canal.




Swab of ulcer



Ano-rectal swab

If NAAT test result is positive, collect swab for culture before treatment, to assess antibiotic sensitivity. This should not delay treatment


Ano-rectal swab

NAAT, LGV testing if reactive.

NAAT – Nucelic acid amplification test
LGV – Lymphogranuloma venereum

 Specimen collection 

These should always be clinician collected as the patient should be examined. Ideally this should be done via proctoscope. If patients are reluctant to undergo anorectal examination the importance and benefits of physical examination should be explained with respect to achieving an accurate diagnosis and appropriate management plan.

Special considerations

  • Ano-rectal chlamydia that presents with proctitis should raise the suspicion of LGV, which requires a longer course of treatment
  • STIs are a neglected cause of proctitis. All patients with proctitis should be assessed for risk of STIs and tested if indicated.
  • If syphilis is suspected, consider testing with anal swab for treponemal PCR and syphilis serology. Due to the window period, syphilis serology may not detect primary syphilis that presents with proctitis.
  • If the patient is a known contact of M. genitalium, or if no other infectious cause for proctitis is found, consider testing for M. genitalium by ano-rectal swab for NAAT
  • Rectal infections are commonly accompanied by concomitant infection at other anatomical sites.
  • If the patient is a man who has sex with men (MSM), consider additional testing.



Syndromic Treatment of nonspecific proctitis
• doxycycline 100mg PO bd for 21 days,

• PLUS ceftriaxone 500mg in 2mL of 1% lignocaine, IMI stat

• PLUS Valaciclovir 500mg PO, BD for 5 - 10 days.

 Treatment advice

  • If specific STI test are negative, corresponding treatment for the pathogen can be ceased.
  • Testing for LGV may not be available in some locations, or turnaround time for results may be lengthy. Single doses of azithromycin are unreliable for treating LGV.
  • Limited evidence comparing other antiviral agents (aciclovir) with valaciclovir indicate that they are therapeutically equivalent for treating herpes. The ability for the patient to adhere to the recommended dosing frequency should be considered when selecting the appropriate treatment. Initial episodes of herpes may require a longer duration of treatment.
  • If all tests are negative, all medications are ceased and if symptoms persists then seek specialist advice.

Other immediate management

  • Advise no sexual contact for 7 days after treatment is administered
  • Advise no sex with partners from the last 6 months until the partners have been tested and treated if necessary
  • Contact tracing.

Contact Tracing

See Australasian Contact Tracing Manual for more information.

Follow up

If confirmed STI, follow up provides an opportunity to:

  • Confirm patient adherence to treatment and assess for symptom resolution.
  • Confirm contact tracing procedures have been undertaken or offer more contact tracing support.
  • Provide further sexual health education and prevention counselling.

For test of cure (TOC) and retesting advice see:

Auditable outcomes

  • 100% of patients diagnosed with proctitis are treated with an appropriate antibiotic regimen.
  • 100% of patients with proctitis have been investigated with appropriate tests to exclude STIs.
Last Updated: Wednesday, 11 July 2018