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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.
digital rectal exam is 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.
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
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
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
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
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
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 K (2012). Approaches to the patient with gastrointestinal disease. In L Goldman, A Shafer, eds., Goldman's Cecil Medicine, 24th ed., pp. 828–844. Philadelphia: Elsevier Saunders.
Current as of:
September 26, 2012
E. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal Medicine
& Jerome B. Simon, MD, FRCPC, FACP - Gastroenterology
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