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A digital (finger) rectal examination is done to check for problems with organs or other structures in the pelvis and lower belly. During the examination, the doctor gently puts a lubricated, gloved finger of one hand into the rectum. He or she may use the other hand to press on the lower belly or pelvic area.
A digital rectal exam may be done for men as part of a complete physical examination to check the prostate gland. It is done for women as part of a gynecological examination to check the uterus and ovaries. Other organs, such as the bladder, can sometimes also be felt during a digital rectal exam.
A digital rectal exam (DRE) is done to:
If you have hemorrhoids, tell your doctor before the examination begins. Your doctor will try not to bother your hemorrhoids.
For a digital rectal exam, you will take off your clothes below the waist. You will be given a gown to wear.
Your doctor gently puts a lubricated, gloved finger into the rectum. He or she may use the other hand to press on the lower belly or pelvic area to feel for tenderness or problems, such as enlargement, hardness, or growths.
Men may feel some discomfort or pain during a digital rectal exam (DRE). Your doctor must press firmly on the prostate to feel for problems. This pressure may make you feel the need to urinate. The examination may be painful if the prostate gland is swollen or irritated.
Most women do not find a DRE painful. You may feel some pressure or discomfort when your doctor presses on your belly to feel the internal organs.
People with hemorrhoids, breaks in the skin around the anus (called anal fissures), or other anal sores may find a DRE more painful than people without these problems.
A small amount of bleeding from the rectum may occur after an examination, especially if hemorrhoids or anal fissures are present.
In rare cases, you may feel lightheaded and faint. This feeling is called vasovagal syncope and is caused by fear or pain when your doctor puts a finger into the rectum. Vasovagal syncope is more likely to happen if you are standing up.
A digital (finger) rectal examination is done to check for problems of organs or other structures in the pelvis and lower belly. During the examination, the doctor gently puts a lubricated, gloved finger of one hand into the rectum.
No problems such as organ enlargements or growths are felt.
Problems such as organ enlargements or growths are felt.
For men, the prostate gland may be enlarged. This may mean benign prostatic hypertrophy (BPH) or inflammation of the prostate gland (prostatitis). Tumors are felt.
For women, growths such as tumors of the cervix, uterus, or ovaries are felt.
Growths such as hemorrhoids, polyps, tumors, or abscesses may be found in the lower rectum. Breaks in the skin around the anus (anal fissures) may be found. Problems of the bladder may also be felt.
Hemorrhoids or anal fissures may cause discomfort during a digital rectal exam.
Other Works Consulted
McQuaid KR (2016). Approach to the patient with gastrointestinal disease. In L Goldman, A Schafer, eds., Goldman-Cecil Medicine, 25th ed., vol. 1, pp. 850–866. Philadelphia: Saunders.
Current as of: August 21, 2019
Author: Healthwise StaffMedical Review: E. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal MedicineKathleen Romito, MD - Family MedicineJimmy Ruiz, MD - Medical Oncology, Hematology
Current as of: August 21, 2019
E. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal Medicine & Kathleen Romito, MD - Family Medicine & Jimmy Ruiz, MD - Medical Oncology, Hematology
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