Pruritus ani is a common condition that causes irritating and uncomfortable itching around the anus (opening of the rectum), followed by an urge to scratch. Affecting about five percent of the population, pruritus ani is more commonly diagnosed in patients between 40 and 60 years old, and can result from skin conditions, infections, disease, and hygiene habits. Patients generally experience bothersome symptoms after a bowel movement or during the night. At Colon & Rectal Surgical Specialists of New York in Garden City, NY, our specialists understand anal itching can be difficult to deal with, which is why we offer a variety of conservative treatments to help eliminate undesirable side symptoms.
Signs and Symptoms
As the name states, the most common side effect is an itchy bottom or burning sensation around the anus. The severity of the sensation may increase and result in inflammation when the anus is scratched or exposed to moisture for long periods of time. Once irritated, you may experience unbearable discomfort and soreness during and after a bowel movement, followed by bleeding.
Patients generally experience bothersome symptoms after a bowel movement or during the night.
Aggressive wiping and excessive hygiene habits can worsen symptoms and start a vicious cycle. Once the anus is scratched and the surrounding tissue is irritated, itching will progress into a burning sensation. To help heal the area, your skin will naturally begin to release histamines. As the histamines are released and the skin begins to heal, the burning sensation will subside but rebound itching can occur until the skin is completely healed.
What Causes Anal Itching?
There are a number of possible causes for anal itching, including:
- Certain foods that are spicy, acidic, caffeinated, or contain dairy or alcohol
- Skin irritation as a result of soaps, laundry detergent, or stool leakage
- Aggressive wiping with toilet paper
- Excessive washing with washcloths
- Prolonged wear of wet or sweaty underwear
- Fungal infections
- Radiation therapy
- Stress and anxiety
- Eczema or psoriasis
- Anal fissures
- Certain medications
During your visit, we can review your medical history to determine contributing factors.
How Is It Diagnosed?
Because anal itching is a symptom, your colorectal specialist can perform a rectal examination to identify if you have hemorrhoids, fissures, eczema, or another abnormality causing your discomfort. We may also recommend additional testing if we suspect you may have a more serious condition, such as a tumor or pinworm.
Available Treatment Methods
The type of treatment we recommend will depend on the root of your issue. In cases where the cause of your condition is easily identifiable, your specialist can recommend a medication to treat the issue, such as:
- Steroid ointment for eczema or psoriasis
- Antifungal ointment or prescription medication for fungal infections and pinworms
- Antibiotics for skin infections
- Hemorrhoid treatment to treat external or internal hemorrhoids
In addition to taking medication, your specialist can recommend careful at-home treatment and dietary changes to accelerate your recovery. Instructions may include:
- Wiping gently with unscented toilet paper
- Eliminating certain spicy or acidic foods from your diet
- Avoiding scented soaps, detergents, and other chemical agents
- Keeping the anus clean and dry after a bowel movement
- Showering or bathing daily
- Wearing clean, loose-fitting, cotton underwear (avoid wearing nylon)
- Changing out of wet or sweaty clothes immediately
- Increasing fiber and water intake for bouts of constipation
Depending upon your unique needs, we can design a customized treatment plan to manage symptoms and treat your condition.
Contact Our Office
If you are struggling with persistent anal itching, our doctors can provide the necessary treatment to eliminate your uncomfortable symptoms. Contact our office online or call (516) 248-2422 to schedule your consultation with one of our colorectal specialists.