Anal & Rectal Conditions


Proctitis is an inflammation of the lining of the rectum, which is the bottom portion of the large intestine. Proctitis can be caused by certain sexually transmitted diseases, infections, trauma to the rectal area or inflammatory bowel disease. Symptoms of proctitis can be either short-lived or chronic, and include anal or rectal pain, bloody bowel movements, abdominal cramps and diarrhea. To diagnose proctitis, a medical history is taken, a physical exam is performed and a blood test may be required. In some cases, a rectal culture will be taken or diagnostic examinations such as an anoscopy, sigmoidoscopy or colonoscopy may be performed to detect abnormalities.

The method of treatment for proctitis will depend on the specific cause of the condition, although the main goals of treatment are to reduce symptoms and relieve inflammation. Treatments for proctitis may include antibiotics to eliminate infection and steroids or immunosuppressive medications to address inflammation and provide relief in the rectum. Chronic proctitis cases may require surgery to repair damage to the rectum or anal canal.

Rectovaginal Fistula

A rectovaginal fistula is an abnormal passageway or connection that forms between the rectum and the vagina. These fistulas vary in size and are defined by symptoms such as vaginal discharge, urinary or fecal incontinence and recurrent vaginal infections. Rectovaginal fistulas can occur due to a variety of factors including childbirth, radiation treatment for pelvic cancer, vaginal surgery, or an existing health condition such as inflammatory bowel disease.

Rectovaginal fistulas are diagnosed after a physical examination of the vagina and the anus is conducted. In addition, a series of tests may be performed, including an intravenous pyelogram, blood tests, urinalysis and X-rays. Some rectovaginal fistulas will respond to medication and certain diet restrictions. Rectovaginal fistulas that do not readily heal when treated with medication may require surgery to repair the damaged tissue and close up the opening between the organs.

Rectocele and Cystocele

Rectoceles and cystoceles are types of hernias that occur when part of the rectal or bladder wall bulges into the vagina. A rectocele is known as posterior prolapse, while a cystocele is known as anterior, or bladder prolapse. These conditions may be a result of multiple or difficult childbirths, chronic cough, chronic constipation or weakened vaginal muscles. They are more common in women who have already been through menopause. Obesity and smoking also increase a woman's risk of developing this condition.

Rectocele and cystocele may cause pain or pressure in the vagina or rectum, pain during sex and bladder problems. Your doctor may perform a medical examination and take X-rays in order to diagnose these conditions. Treatment depends on the severity of the condition. Talk to your doctor to determine if you have this condition and to decide which method of treatment is best for you.

Vaginal Fistulas

A fistula is an abnormal passageway or opening between two organs or areas within the body. Fistulas can develop in various parts of the body and are usually cased by tissue damage that has worn over time, ultimately creating an opening, or a fistula.

Types of Vaginal Fistulas

A fistula that has formed in the wall of the vagina is called a vaginal fistula. Vaginal fistulas may be caused by tissue damage that has occurred as a result of previous surgery, radiation treatment, inflammation due to inflammatory bowel disease, or childbirth. Types of vaginal fistulas may include:

Vesicovaginal fistula - A vaginal fistula that abnormally connects to the bladder.
Rectovaginal fistula - A vaginal fistula that abnormally connects to the rectum.
Urethrovaginal fistula - A vaginal fistula that abnormally connects to the urethra.

Symptoms of Vaginal Fistulas

Vaginal fistulas are generally painless but symptoms may include:

  • Urinary or fecal incontinence
  • Vaginal discharge
  • Inflamed or infected vaginal area

Diagnosis of Vaginal Fistulas

To diagnose a fistula, a doctor will review all symptoms and conduct a physical examination. An intravenous pyelogram, or a dye test to measure the amount of fluid leakage may be performed. Additional tests may include:

  • X-rays
  • Blood tests
  • Urinalysis

Treatment of Vaginal Fistulas

Treatments for a vaginal fistula may vary and may include medication and possible diet restriction, especially for a rectovaginal fistula, to lessen the amount of stool flow and help the affected area heal. Fistulas that do not respond to other treatment may require surgery to repair the damaged tissue and close up the opening or passageway between the organs. With proper treatment, a fistula can be corrected or healed and should not reoccur.

Meet Our Physicians

All of our physicians are board certified members of the American Society of Colon & Rectal Surgeons.