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Home > Living Well > Health Library > Digital Rectal Examination
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.
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.
Current as of:
September 8, 2021
Author: Healthwise StaffMedical Review: E. Gregory Thompson MD - Internal MedicineKathleen Romito MD - Family MedicineJimmy Ruiz MD - Hematology, Oncology
Current as of: September 8, 2021
Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review:E. Gregory Thompson MD - Internal Medicine & Kathleen Romito MD - Family Medicine & Jimmy Ruiz MD - Hematology, Oncology
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