Proctology is a subspecialty of medicine that deals with the treatment and diagnosis, surgical or otherwise, of all conditions found in the colon, rectum and anus. According to the following symptoms you should consult a proctologist: notice any small change or lump in the anus, pain or itching, see any injury in the anal area, see any modification in bowel movements, the frequency or appearance of bowel movements and if there is bleeding during bowel movements.

 

What conditions does proctology treat?

5 of the most common conditions that proctology treats are:

  • Hemorrhoids
  • Intestinal obstruction
  • Anal fissures
  • Colon Cancer
  • Colon diverticula

Hemorrhoids, or piles, are swollen or inflamed veins around the anus or lower rectum. There are two types: external hemorrhoids, which form around the anus and under the skin; and internal hemorrhoids, which occur in the lining of the lower rectum and in the anus. These appear when there is a lot of pressure on the veins in the area of the anus. Hemorrhoids can be caused by a diet that is poor in fiber, straining at bowel movements, chronic diarrhea or constipation, sitting on the toilet for too long, frequent lifting of heavy objects, or weakening of the supporting tissues in the rectum and anus (aging or pregnancy).

Intestinal obstruction occurs when the passage of fluid or food through the large intestine (colon) or small intestine is blocked. Causes of bowel obstruction can include fibrous bands of tissue in the abdomen, which occur after surgery; infected pouches in the bowel; inflamed bowel (Crohn’s disease), colon cancer, and hernias. If left untreated, obstructed parts of the intestine can die, leading to serious problems. With immediate medical attention, bowel obstruction, in most cases, can be treated successfully.

Anal fissures are a small tear in the moist, thin tissue covering the anus. It can happen when you have a large, hard stool. They often cause bleeding and pain during bowel movements. Anal fissures are common in small babies, but they can affect patients of any age. Almost all anal fissures recover with simple treatments, such as sitz baths or increased fiber intake. Some people may need medication or, sometimes, surgery.

Colon cancer is a type of cancer that begins in the large intestine (colon). The colon is the final portion of the digestive tract. Colon cancer is most common in older adults, although it can happen at any age. They usually start as small, non-cancerous groups of cells called polyps, which are created inside the colon. Over time, some of these polyps can turn into colon cancer. Polyps may cause few or no symptoms. For this reason, doctors suggest regular screening tests to prevent colon cancer.

Colon diverticula are small, bulging pouches that can be created in the lining of the digestive system. They are usually located in the lower part of the large intestine. Colon diverticula are common, especially after age 40, and usually do not cause problems. However, in some cases they become infected or inflamed.

 

What treatments and procedures exist in proctology?

5 of the most common treatments and procedures performed by proctology are:

  • Colostomy
  • Colectomy
  • Hemorrhoidectomy
  • Anoscopy
  • Sigmoidoscopy

A colostomy is a surgical procedure in which one end of the large intestine is removed through an opening, called a stoma, made in the abdominal wall. The stool that moves through the intestine passes through the stoma into a pouch attached to the abdomen.

Colectomy is a procedure that is performed to remove part or all of the colon. When only part is removed, the operation is called a partial colectomy. In an open colectomy, a long cut is made in the wall of the abdomen and doctors can look at the colon directly. In a laparoscopic colectomy, several small cuts are made and a thin tube with a light and a video camera attached is inserted to guide the operation. Surgical instruments are inserted into the other openings to perform the operation.  

Hemorrhoidectomy is a procedure to remove hemorrhoids. Generally, the patient can go home the same day. The type of intervention they perform will depend on the symptoms; and the size and location of the hemorrhoid. Before the surgery, your doctor will place anesthesia in the area so you can stay awake but not feel anything. 

The anoscopy is performed with an anoscope to visualize the lower rectum, the anal canal and the inside of the anus, with the purpose of taking samples, diagnosing local pathologies or treating ailments such as hemorrhoids. In order to proceed with the anoscopy, you must have had a bowel movement hours before the procedure, with the help of a laxative if necessary, and empty your bladder when you are in the office. 

Sigmoidoscopy is performed to view the rectum and the inside of the sigmoid colon. The sigmoid colon is the area of the large intestine closest to the rectum. To proceed with the exam, you should lie on your left side with your knees bent toward your chest. The doctor then carefully inserts a gloved, lubricated finger into the rectum to check for any blockage or to gently dilate the anus. Next, the sigmoidoscope, which is a flexible tube with a camera on the end, is inserted. Usually, the images are viewed on a video monitor. The doctor can remove tissue samples with a thin sheet of metal for biopsy or a tiny tool inserted through the sigmoidoscope.