Proctology is the study of medical issues in the areas of the colon, rectum, and anus. A proctologist diagnoses diseases, performs diagnostic tests, treats, and operates on those body organs.
A proctologist specializes in General Surgery before he receives hands-on training in proctology. Only after completing the Colorectal Surgery Fellowship, can a surgeon practice proctology.
What does a proctologist treat?
A proctologist treats any medical condition that surfaces in the areas of the rectum, colon, and anus. The most common proctological treatments are sought for the following conditions:
Piles and fissures: Medically known as hemorrhoids, anal fissures or piles are swollen blood vessels or cracks found near the anal region. The can be seen as lumps that occur in your anus. They can occur inside the anal area as well where they are not visible. When advanced, patients suffer from bleeding initially that gradually becomes painful bleeding.
Fistula: Fistula is an abnormal connection between a blood vessel and an organ which are not naturally connected. Such connections are hollow ways that may accumulate abscess and get infected. A fistula results from an injury or unhealed surgical wound. It is painful and is visible as an inflammation.
Pilonidal sinus: A pilonidal sinus is a small hole present at the cleft of the buttocks. A combination of genetic, hormonal, lifestyle and clothing choices have been found responsible for the occurrence of pilonidal sinus. In certain individuals, it can start accumulating dirt and fluid and get infected. When that happens or there is a tendency of that happening, it needs surgical correction.
Apart from these conditions, there are many other conditions that proctologists treat. For example:
- Rectal prolapse
- Genital warts
- Complications from STDs
- Polys or abnormal tissue growth
- Tumors and cancer
- Anal fringes or skin tags
- Chronic constipation
- Foreign object stuck inside rectum
- Birth defects
A proctologist also performs diagnostic tests like colonoscopy, rectal biopsy, etc. to determine the cause behind a symptom or for general health checkups.
When should you see a proctologist?
A proctologist, while is a certified surgeon, can also be consulted for seeking non-surgical remedies. Hence, you should visit a proctologist if you experience the following symptoms:
- Bleeding while passing stool
- Lump in the anal area that goes in or can be pushed back in or that stays visible
- Bump in the groin area (hernia)
- Unusual discharge from anus
- Constipation or change in bowel habits
- Redness or swelling in the buttocks with or without pain
- Tumor in the area
- For annual colonoscopy in the elderly
- Regular checkup after cancer treatment
- Foreign object stuck or lost in the rectum
- Injury in the groin or anal area
Surgical treatments that aim at correcting medical issues in the colon, rectun, and anus, are collectively known as colorectal surgery. Some common procedures that are performed are anoplasty, colectomy, colostomy, haemorrhoidectomy, strictureplasty, J-pouch, etc. Depending on the individual cases of each patient these procedures can often be performed laparoscopically i.e. with 2-3 keyhole incisions.
To prepare for these surgeries, you will usually go through a bowel cleansing regimen and post surgery you need to follow a liquid or liquid-based diet until you are recovered entirely which usually takes 4-6 weeks.
The significance of proctology care increases with age. So, when you are 50 years or older, make sure to visit a proctologist annually even though you feel seemingly healthy.