Anal Itching (Pruritus Ani)
Anal itching can be a real pain in the you-know-what. MediLexicon’s Medical Dictionary states that pruritus ani is an “itching of varying intensity at the anus.” Anal itching is called pruritus ani whether it’s a mild itchiness after a bowel movement, or a severe, persistent burning sensation in or around the anus. Fortunately, most of the causes of anal itching are pretty harmless and can be treated with little difficulty; however, sometimes anal itching can be a sign of a more serious condition.
Below, we’ve outlined some of the possible causes of anal itching:
- Skin Type—Sometimes, the skin in and around the anus can become dry, causing persistent itching. The good news is that pruritus ani that is being caused by dry skin in this area can be treated with an over-the-counter moisturizer.
- Chemical irritants—Certain people can be sensitive to the chemicals in some laundry detergents, personal lubricants, perfumes, and other personal hygiene products—especially those that are scented or colored. Switching brands until you find one that doesn’t cause anal itching will usually take care of the problem.
- Toilet Paper—Sometimes, the type of toilet paper you use can cause anal itching. If you think the texture or substance in your toilet paper is irritating your skin, it might be time to find a different brand of toilet paper – completely free of dyes or perfumes.
- Excessive moisture—Sweating and moist stools can cause the anus to itch. Often “baby wipes,” “diaper wipes,” and similar products will be so moist that they will actually contribute to this problem. Proper wiping after passing a stool or an application of baby powder periodically throughout the day can eliminate anal itching due to moisture.
- Loose stools—Diarrhea is probably the most common reason people experience itching in the anus. While the occasional bout of diarrhea won’t cause persistent itching in the anal area, frequent diarrhea can cause serious pruritus ani. Diarrhea and loose stools can be the result of:
- Some medications (particularly antibiotics).
- Consumption of spicy foods or any other kind of food that upsets your digestive system.
- Abusing laxatives.
- Skin disorders—Skin disorders, such as psoriasis and eczema, can affect the anal region and cause itching. You should consult a doctor before attempting to treat anal itching due to one of these common skin issues.
- Hemorrhoids—Hemorrhoids are a common cause of anal itching. Hemorrhoids are covered with a lining that secretes mucus, and when they prolapse (bulge into the lower rectum and anal canal), the mucus will be deposited on the skin, which may cause severe itching. Hemorrhoids should be treated by a hemorrhoids doctor; they’ll be able to educate you on treatment options.
- Anal fissure—Anal fissure is a tear in the anus caused by forcing hard stools during a movement. These tears, when minor, can cause anal itching, and when more severe, can cause extreme pain and bleeding from the anus. Fissures can be treated with both over-the-counter and prescription medicines, depending on severity. Consult a doctor to find the best treatment.
- Food irritations—Anal itching can be caused by certain foods as they are expelled from the body during a bowel movement. Peppers or other spicy foods, hot sauces, citrus fruits, chocolate, and alcohol can be causes of anal itching. Avoid these foods if you consistently experience itching after consumption.
- Infections—Sexually transmitted diseases and parasites are notorious for flaring up around the anus and causing anal itching. Consult a doctor if you believe you are experiencing anal itching caused by an STD or parasite.
- Anal Tumors—On rare occasion, both benign and cancerous tumors can grow in the anal region, causing itching in the area. A doctor will be able to distinguish between common hemorrhoids and tumors of the anus.
Other than an itchy feeling, symptoms of advanced pruritus ani include a painful, burning sensation. Individuals with intense anal itching can experience a strong desire to scratch immediately. In addition to some of the causes outlined above, mental stress or anxiety have actually been known to make anal itching worse. But that’s not the only reason you should prevent and treat anal itching. Excessive anal scratching can aggravate the skin, causing additional soreness and, sometimes, severe skin irritation.
To prevent mild anal itching from ever reaching this point, find a doctor in your area and make an appointment. The friendly and knowledgeable physicians in our network will be able to provide you with further information about the causes of anal itching, and help you choose the treatment that is right for you.