Proctalgia fugax is a benign condition that is characterized by intermittent, recurrent, self-limited rectal pain that is severe. It is one of several functional gastrointestinal disorders and its diagnosis requires exclusion of other causes of rectal or anal pain.
This topic will review proctalgia fugax. Functional gastrointestinal disorders as well as other disorders that affect the anus or rectum are discussed separately. (See "Clinical manifestations and diagnosis of irritable bowel syndrome" and "Perianal abscess: Clinical manifestations, diagnosis, treatment" and "Anal fissure: Clinical manifestations, diagnosis, prevention" and "Overview of hemorrhoids" and "Perianal complications of Crohn's disease" and "Clinical manifestations, diagnosis, and prognosis of ulcerative colitis in adults" and "Clinical manifestations, diagnosis, and staging of colorectal cancer" and "Clinical features, staging, and treatment of anal cancer".)
Proctalgia fugax is largely under-reported. It is estimated that it affects 4 to 18 percent of the general population [1-5], with only 17 to 20 percent of patients reporting their symptoms to their physicians [2,6,7].
Early reports had suggested a male predominance [4,8,9], but more recent studies have found that a majority of patients (58 to 84 percent) are female [1,5,6,10-13]. Studies report a mean age at diagnosis of 46 to 58 years, though the ages of patients included in the studies ranged from 10 to 87 years [1,9,11-15].
Older studies suggested that the prevalence may be higher in patients with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) [15,16]. However, in a more recent study of 148 patients with irritable bowel syndrome, peptic ulcer disease, or inflammatory bowel disease, proctalgia fugax was not more common in patients with IBS.