If you are experiencing a medical emergency please dial 911 immediately
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
|Primary Medical Reviewer||E. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal Medicine|
|Specialist Medical Reviewer||Jerome B. Simon, MD, FRCPC, FACP - Gastroenterology|
|Last Revised||September 26, 2012|
Last Revised: September 26, 2012
Author: Healthwise Staff
To learn more visit Healthwise.org
© 1995-2013 Healthwise, Incorporated. Healthwise, Healthwise for every health decision, and the Healthwise logo are trademarks of Healthwise, Incorporated.