What Is Proctalgia Fugax?

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Proctalgia means anal pain without an idenfiable cause. Proctalgia can be manifested as proctaglia fugax or as chronic proctalgia.

Proctalgia fugax is a condition in which a person experiences episodes of sudden and severe anal or rectal pain. The pain is considered to be fleeting, in that it may last a few seconds or a few minutes before going away completely. The pain is due to a spasm in the muscles of the pelvic floor or rectum, or of the anal sphincter.

For most people who have proctaglia fuxax, these attacks are fairly infrequent, occurring less than five times per year. Proctalgia fugax is estimated to affect anywhere from 8 to 18% of the population and affects men and women, but is somewhat more prevalent in women.

Proctalgia fugax is considered to be different from the disorder of chronic proctalgia, which is characterized by episodes of anorectal pain that lasts for at least 20 minutes.

Symptoms of Proctaglia Fugax

The pain of proctaglia fugax is experienced in the anus or rectum. The pain has been described as:

  • Aching
  • Crampy
  • Gnawing
  • Stabbing

The intensity of the pain can vary widely and typically does not radiate beyond the anorectal area.

Triggers for Pain

Sometimes the pain occurs out of the blue. However, at other times there may be identifiable triggers, such as:

  • Constipation
  • Having a bowel movement
  • Having sex
  • Being under stress
  • Having your period

    Proctaglia fugax may occur after having undergone sclerotherapy for a hemorrhoid or a hysterectomy. People who have irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) also may be at higher risk for experiencing proctaglia fugax.


    As a functional gastrointestinal disorder (FGD), proctaglia fugax is diagnosed only after all other disease possibilities have been ruled out.

    Your doctor will do a physical examination and only recommend diagnostic tests that would be appropriate to make sure that there is not something more seriously wrong with you.

    Being an FGD, proctaglia fugax is diagnosed based on symptoms and criteria established by the Rome III criteria. To meet these criteria:

    1. You must report symptoms for at least 12 weeks (not necessarily consecutive) of repeating episodes of pain in your anus or lower rectum.

    2.The episodes must be of extremely short duration - no more than a few minutes.

    3. You must not experience any pain in that area in between episodes.

    Treatment of Proctaglia Fugax

    Because the symptoms of proctaglia fugax are so fleeting, there is not much need for symptomatic treatment. Typically, doctors are encouraged to just be supportive and to explain the nature of the syndrome to put your mind at ease.


    Barucha, A., et.al. "Functional Anorectal Disorders" Gastroenterology 2006 130:1510-1518.

    Bharucha, A. & Trabuco, E. "Functional and Chronic Anorectal and Pelvic Pain Disorders" Gastroenterology Clinics of North America 2008 37: 685-696.

    Jeyarajah, S. & Purkayastha, S. "Proctalgia fugax" CMAJ 2013 185:417.

    "Rome III Diagnostic Criteria for Functional Gastrointestinal Disorders" Appendix A

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