Proctalgia fugax (or levator syndrome, also known as anal cold) is a severe, episodic, rectal and sacrococcygeal pain. It can be caused by cramp of the pubococcygeus or levator ani muscles.
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 percent) as well as at night (33 percent) 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.
During an episode, the patient feels spasm-like, sometimes excruciating, pain in the anus, often misinterpreted as a need to defecate. Simultaneous stimulation of the local autonomic system can cause erection in males. Because of the high incident 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 varies, but is more prevalent than usually thought.
The pain episode subsides by itself as the spasm disappears on its own, but may reoccur.
Sometimes there is a drop in blood pressure that may cause loss of consciousness and possible injury. Staying down is suggested if in bed, and lying down is recommended.
Treatment and prevention
Traditional remedies have ranged from warm baths (if the pain lasts long enough to draw a bath), warm to hot enemas, relaxation techniques, and various medications.
In patients who suffer frequent, severe, prolonged attacks, inhaled salbutamol has been shown in some studies to reduce their duration.
The use of botulinum toxin has been proposed as analgesic, and low dose diazepam at bedtime has been suggested as preventative.
Some patients find that sitting on a ball, such as a baseball, covered with a heating pad makes the pain more bearable and helps pain subside quicker. The drug Anaspaz, an anti-spasmotic, is also prescibed for the pain.
Glycerol trinitrate, as spray or ointment is very effective for some.
The most common approach is simply reassurance and topical treatment.
- ^ "levator syndrome" at Dorland's Medical Dictionary
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