Anal pressure is a symptom of many conditions, from diarrhea to IBD. This list covers common and serious causes, plus what to do next. A constant feeling of pressure in the anus or rectum not only is frustrating, but it also can be a sign of several different conditions. The rectum is the last part of the large intestine. It is where stool is stored before it leaves the body
A constant feeling of pressure in the anus or rectum not only is frustrating, but it also can be a sign of several different conditions. The rectum is the last part of the large intestine. It is where stool is stored before it leaves the body through the anus during a bowel movement. It is surrounded by other organs, which might also have an effect on it.
This article will discuss some of the reasons for a feeling of fullness or pressure in the anus. It will also touch on tests to diagnose the cause and treatments that might help.
Anal pressure can feel like having to go to the bathroom to move your bowels. But the feeling doesn’t always stop after passing stool.
The sensation of anal pressure could be described in a variety of ways. It could feel like:
The rectum is located at the end of the large intestine. It is between the last segment of the colon (the sigmoid colon) and the anal sphincter. The rectum is about 12 centimeters (4.7 inches) long.
After food is digested and passes through the large intestine, it moves into the rectum. Stool is emptied from the rectum during a bowel movement.
There are other organs around the rectum. If those organs are affected by a health condition, the rectum may also be affected, including causing a feeling of pressure. Nearby organs include the bladder, the uterus, and the vagina in biological females, and the bladder and the prostate in biological males.
There are many reasons for a feeling of pressure in the rectal area. They range from common and treatable to more serious.
More common causes include:
Less common causes include:
Talking about symptoms in the digestive tract with a healthcare provider can be difficult. There are some key things to remember about bringing up anal or rectal pressure with your healthcare provider.
Many of the common causes of anal pressure are not serious and can get better with treatment. Bringing symptoms to a healthcare provider can help in getting a diagnosis—and treatment—faster.
Remember that this is what doctors do: They are there to help solve medical problems. It may help to role play talking to a doctor with a friend or a family member. Rehearsing what you say and how you say it may help you to feel more comfortable.
It may also be comforting to know that healthcare professionals hear about bowel problems all of the time. They’re trained in how to take a list of the symptoms and make a decision on what to do next. This could include a physical exam, some tests, and/or a referral to a specialist.
Signs and symptoms that should be discussed with a healthcare provider include:
After taking down a history that includes symptoms and other details that may be relevant, a healthcare provider will perform a physical exam.
When it comes to problems in the anus and the rectum, the exam might include a digital rectal exam. This is where a healthcare provider briefly inserts a gloved, lubricated finger into the anus and feels for any abnormalities.
This exam can be uncomfortable both physically and mentally for some people, so it’s key to be upfront about how you feel having this exam. It sounds really simple, but it is a good way to easily find some problems in the anus, like a hemorrhoid.
When the finger is pulled away, the glove might have stool, mucus, or blood on it. That will also give the healthcare provider information about what might be causing the symptoms.
There may be a need for more invasive tests. These can include:
Having a diagnosis will be important in knowing how to treat discomfort and pressure in the anal and rectal area. However, there are also some things that can be tried at home to ease the sensation.
In some cases, Tylenol (acetaminophen) and/or Advil (ibuprofen) may help manage pain or discomfort. However, it’s important to talk to a healthcare provider about which pain medications to try because certain types may not be recommended for some people.
Self-care for rectal pressure can take many forms. Treating the underlying cause, when it's known, may help ease the discomfort.
If constipation is the main or partial cause, drinking more water, being active, or changing your diet to include more fiber may help.
For diarrhea, slowing bowel movements down may help with the pressure. This could include taking antidiarrheal medications and eating the BRAT (bananas, rice, applesauce, tea, and toast) diet.
Diarrhea doesn’t always need treatment and, in fact, in some cases, antidiarrheal medications might not be recommended. For diarrhea that continues for more than a few days or if you see blood in the stool, check with a doctor before using these drugs.
Pressure associated with IBD may be from diarrhea or constipation caused by the disease. It could also be from a complication such as a fistula or perianal disease. Controlling the inflammation caused by the IBD is a big part of the treatment.
Treatments for IBD can include oral medications, biologic medications, enemas, suppositories, and lifestyle modifications. Care is coordinated with the help of a gastroenterologist and other healthcare providers such as a dietitian, IBD nurse, or mental healthcare provider.
In the case of a tumor putting pressure on the rectum, treatment will be specific to the type of cancer and how far it has advanced.
Surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy are all treatments used for cancer. It’s important to remember, however, that cancer will not be a common cause of pressure in the rectum.
Pressure in the rectum can be from a variety of causes, but most of them are temporary and treatable. Seeing a healthcare provider for this symptom will help in understanding what is causing it and how to treat it.
Rectal pressure can mean that there’s stool ready to be moved through a bowel movement. But when the sensation continues after you go to the bathroom, you will find it’s worth talking to a healthcare provider.
The initial conversation can be embarrassing, but it is a common problem and won’t be anything new to your providers. It’s important to disclose any other signs or symptoms you have, such as blood, mucus, or pain, because these things can help narrow down the cause and get treatment started.
The pressure inside the rectum and anus is higher when sitting than it is when lying down. Lying down on one side may offer some relief from the sensation of pressure.
A rectal prolapse is not common although it does happen more frequently in people over the age of 65 years. When it does happen, it will cause pain and possibly a protrusion from the anus. There may also be bleeding or the passage of stool or mucus out of the rectum.
Constant pressure in the bowel is not a normal part of the digestive process. When the symptoms become bothersome or are accompanied by other signs such as pain, blood, mucus, and diarrhea or constipation that can't be stopped, it is time to see a healthcare provider.