|Classification and external resources|
Proctalgia fugax (a variant of levator ani syndrome) is a severe, episodic pain in the regions of the rectum and anus. It can be caused by cramp of the levator ani muscle, particularly in the pubococcygeal part.
Signs and symptoms
It most often occurs in the middle of the night and lasts from seconds to minutes, an indicator for the differential diagnosis of levator ani syndrome, which presents as pain and aching lasting twenty minutes or longer. In a study published in 2007 involving 1809 patients, the attacks occurred in the daytime (33 per cent) as well as at night (33 per cent) and the average number of attacks was 13. Onset can be in childhood; however, in multiple studies the average age of onset was 45. Many studies showed that women are affected more commonly than men. This can be at least partly explained by men's reluctance to seek medical advice concerning such a delicate case as rectal pain.
During an episode, the patient feels spasm-like, sometimes excruciating, pain in the anus, often misinterpreted as a need to defecate. The pain must arise de novo, that is in absence of clear cause. As such, pain associated with penetrative anal intercourse, trauma or rectal foreign body insertion preclude a diagnosis of proctalgia fugax. Simultaneous stimulation of the local autonomic system can cause erection in males. In some people, twinges sometimes occur shortly after orgasm. Because of the high incidence of internal anal sphincter thickening with the disorder, it is thought to be a disorder of the internal anal sphincter or that it is a neuralgia of pudendal nerves. It is recurrent and there is also no known cure. However, some studies show effective use of botulinum toxin, pudendal nerve block, and calcium channel blockers. It is not known to be linked to any disease process and data on the number of people afflicted vary, but prevalence may be as high as 8–18%. It is thought that only 17–20% of sufferers consult a physician, so obtaining accurate data on occurrence presents a challenge.
The pain episode subsides by itself as the spasm disappears on its own, but may reoccur.
High-voltage pulsed galvanic stimulation (HGVS) has been shown to be of prophylactic benefit, to reduce the incidence of attacks. The patient is usually placed in the left lateral decubitus position and a sterile probe is inserted into the anus. The negative electrode is used and the stimulator is set with a pulse frequency of 80 to 120 cycles per second. The voltage (intensity) is started at 0, progressively raised to a threshold of patient discomfort, and then is decreased to a level that the patient finds comfortable. As the patient's tolerance increases, the voltage can be gradually increased to 250 to 350 Volts. Each treatment session usually lasts between 15 and 60 minutes. Several studies have reported short-term success rates that ranged from 65 to 91%.
Yoga pose "downward facing dog" -Adho Mukha Svanasana, or modification from it seems to help to relax the muscles and ease the pain. The idea of the yoga pose is that the position will force the muscles to relax and therefore tension will relieve over time. Also relaxing one's jaw muscles will help to relax the muscles in rectal area, method used by women giving birth.
The most common approach for mild cases is simply reassurance and topical treatment with calcium-channel blocker (diltiazem, nifedipine) ointment, salbutamol inhalation and sublingual nitroglycerine.For persistent cases, local anesthetic blocks, clonidine or Botox injections can be considered. Supportive treatments directed at aggravating factors include high-fiber diet, withdrawal of drugs which have gut effects (e.g., drugs that provoke or worsen constipation including narcotics and oral calcium channel blockers; drugs that provoke or worsen diarrhea including quinidine, theophylline, and antibiotics), warm baths, rectal massage, perineal strengthening exercises, anti-cholinergic agents, non-narcotic analgesics, sedatives or muscle relaxants such as diazepam.
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