The rectum is the end part of the large intestine that connects the colon to the anus. It is the area where a person holds stool before excreting it from the body.
The rectum, or intestinum rectum, forms part of the
In this article, we will discuss the function and anatomy of the rectum, as well as common conditions that may affect it.
After completing the process of digestion, the intestines use the muscular walls of the sigmoid colon to push feces into the rectum. The body stores feces in the rectum until defecation occurs. Stretch receptors in the wall of the rectum detect when it is full and stimulate the urge to excrete stool through the anus.
The large intestine contains
- Cecum: Also known as the ileocecal junction, this section joins the small and large intestines. The cecum helps absorb water and any remaining salts during the digestion process.
- Colon: The colon is the longest portion of the large intestine. It also absorbs water and electrolytes.
- Rectum: The rectum
stores fecesuntil a person is ready to have a bowel movement.
- Anal canal: The anus is the final portion of the large intestine. It helps a person have bowel movements.
At the end of the rectum is a section called the
Some conditions that can affect the rectum include:
Hemorrhoids are swollen veins that bulge in the rectum and anus. They do not always cause symptoms, but when they do, people may experience:
- bleeding during defecation
- protrusion of skin during bowel movements
- discomfort, irritation, or itching in the anal area
- pain in the anal area
- sensitive lumps
Different types of infection can affect the rectum and often result in uncomfortable symptoms, such as itching, pain, and proctitis.
For example, a person may acquire a sexually transmitted infection (STI) after engaging in anal sex. This can include:
Sometimes, using antibiotics can lead to a bacterial infection of the rectum. This is because antibiotics can kill the beneficial bacteria that keep harmful types, such as
Fungal infections can also affect the rectum and rectal tissues. Examples of fungal diseases
Parasites can enter the body and cause harm, particularly when there is poor sanitation. The
An anal abscess is a collection of pus in the tissue surrounding the anus or rectum. One typically occurs following an infection or blockage. A perirectal abscess occurs in the rectal region, and evidence suggests it may affect around
Rectal prolapse is a
There are three types of rectal prolapse:
- External: Also known as full-thickness or complete prolapse, the entire wall of the rectum protrudes out of the anus.
- Mucosal: Only the mucosa, or lining of the anus, sticks out through the anus.
- Internal: Also known as an incomplete prolapse, the rectum folds in on itself but does not protrude out through the anus.
As the rectum stores feces, it plays an
- changes in bowel habits
- bright red blood in stool
- leaks of diarrhea
Together, colon and rectal cancers are the
To help maintain rectal health and prevent rectal conditions, people can try to practice good anal hygiene. This can include regular bowel movements and practicing safer sex. Additionally, lifestyle changes can help improve rectal health and reduce the risk of rectal cancer. These
- maintaining a nutritious, balanced diet
- avoiding smoking
- avoiding alcohol
- reaching or maintaining a moderate body weight
- exercising regularly
It is advisable for a person to contact a doctor if they are experiencing rectal discomfort or any symptoms that may indicate a problem around the anal area. Any rectal condition can reduce a person’s quality of life, and it is best to address the problem as soon as possible to avoid potential complications. If a person is over the age of 50 years, they may want to consider discussing regular screening for rectal cancer with their doctor.
The rectum is the last section of the large intestine, and it connects the colon to the anus. It is where the body stores stool before a person is ready to have a bowel movement.
A range of conditions can affect the rectal area. Any of these can reduce quality of life by causing pain, discomfort, and incontinence. If a person is experiencing rectal issues, they should contact a doctor for a diagnosis.