Proctitis is the inflammation of the rectal mucosa due to a number of infectious and non-infectious etiologies. Gonococcal proctitis is inflammation caused by the organism Neisseria gonorrhoeae.
Gonococcal proctitis is usually acquired sexually and is most commonly seen in individuals who practice receptive anal intercourse. Proctitis alone may not produce systemic symptoms such as fever. Moreover, a large proportion of those affected are asymptomatic . Symptomatic infection may present as gastrointestinal complaints that include tenesmus, diarrhea, lower abdominal pain in the left quadrant, and stool withholding behavior due to pain during defecation. A mucopurulent rectal discharge, rectal bleeding, and less commonly anal pain and itching may also be described. These clinical manifestations often appear a few days after anal intercourse without the use of a barrier protective method, and the disease course may either be acute or chronic. Furthermore, the presence of pharyngeal and genital gonococcal invasion may indicate the possibility of rectal infection . This is particularly useful as some signs which are seen with gonococcal proctitis may be identical to those found in other inflammatory bowel conditions.
Visualization of the rectal mucosa through proctoscopy may reveal normal or inflamed mucosa, and in some cases, abscesses. Lesions do not normally extend past the dentate line to the anus, but those that do are more likely to produce symptoms.
A sexual history should be noted, and physical examination of the anus, genital tract and abdomen are important. The rectal mucosa can be inspected via proctoscopy, to note any pustules, erythema, ulcers or bleeding. The absence of lesions and an apparently normal mucosa do not rule out gonococcal proctitis. In addition, colonoscopy should be simultaneously performed, in order to view the extent of inflammation, as it may involve the sigmoid colon.
Rectal swabs must be taken from the rectal mucosa and from any discharge which is present. These samples can be tested in a number of ways:
Genital and pharyngeal swabs may also be cultured along with rectal swabs. Further laboratory tests to be carried out are complete blood count, where a raised leukocyte count may be present, as well as anemia due to rectal hemorrhage, and the measurement of inflammatory markers such as C-reactive protein (CRP) which may be elevated, especially in patients with proximal involvement of the colon. Testing for chlamydial infection is indicated as co-infection is common. Partners of infected persons should also be notified and treated. Other organisms that may be tested include herpes simplex virus and Treponema pallidum, using the appropriate diagnostic tools.