Purpose: This prospective study was designed to describe a typical attack of proctalgia fugax.
Methods: Patients were recruited from May 2003 to June 2004. Whatever the reason for consultation, they were systematically asked: "Do you ever suffer intermittent and recurring anorectal pain lasting for at least three seconds?" If the answer was yes, they were interviewed with a questionnaire and had a proctologic examination. The criterion for proctalgia fugax was a positive answer with a negative examination.
Results: The study included 1,809 patients. Fifty-four of these patients (3 percent) had proctalgia fugax and 83 percent of them had never sought medical advice for this problem. The mean age was 51 (range, 18-87) years. Thirty-seven patients were females (69 percent). The onset of pain was sudden and without a trigger factor in 85 percent of cases. Attacks occurred in the daytime (33 percent) as well as at night (35 percent). The pain was described as cramping, spasm-like, or stabbing in 76 percent of cases. It did not radiate in 93 percent of cases. There were no concomitant symptoms in 81 percent of cases. Attacks stopped spontaneously in 67 percent of cases. The average duration was 15 minutes (range, 5 seconds to 90 minutes). The average annual number of attacks was 13 (range, 1-180).
Conclusions: Proctalgia fugax affects twice as many females as males at approximately aged 50 years. Commonly the roughly once-monthly attack occurs as a sudden pain with no trigger factor, diurnally as often as nocturnally. The nonradiating cramp, spasm, or stabbing pain, without concomitant symptoms, is most severe on average after 15 minutes and declines spontaneously.