Although many people experience it on occasion, anal itching is a subject many patients are hesitant to discuss. It’s important to know that anal itching is nothing to feel embarrassed about.
If the itching is persistent and is causing you significant discomfort or is accompanied by other symptoms such as anal bleeding, you should seek medical evaluation. While anal itching is usually harmless and often resolves on its own, it may be a sign of an underlying issue.
Here at Colorado Colon & Rectal Specialists, board-certified colon and rectal surgeon Lisa Perryman, MD, routinely diagnoses and treats issues that contribute to anal itching and a host of other conditions that affect the digestive system.
Anal itching may not be your only symptoms. Itching may be accompanied by burning, soreness, and swelling around the anus.
Common causes of anal itching
Anal itching is a symptom, and the goal of treatment is to determine what is causing the irritation. Some of the most common causes we see in our practice include:
- Dermatologic Conditions
- Anal Warts
Anal itching can be caused by bacterial, fungal, and parasitic infections, as well as sexually transmitted infections (STIs), such as anal herpes and human papillomavirus (HPV), which can cause anal warts.
In some cases, anal itching is the result of lifestyle factors, such as personal hygiene products or certain foods in your diet. Spicy foods, for example, can cause anal irritation when passed.
Certain conditions such as psoriasis and type 2 diabetes increase the risk of anal itching.
Self-care tips for managing anal itching
You can do several things to ease your symptoms when anal itching strikes. Try the following self-care tips.
Resist the urge to scratch
While scratching is often the first instinct when you have an itch, doing so can actually make it worse. For relief, apply a moist, warm compress to the area and avoid giving in to the urge to scratch.
Keep anal area clean, cool, and dry
Any small amount of stool left behind can cause itching and burning. Cleaning and wiping after a bowel movement should always be gentle. When washing, clean the area around the anus with plain water.
Avoid certain foods
Avoid foods and drinks that can irritate the skin around the anus. Some examples include:
- Citrus fruits
- Spicy foods
Take note if you notice that certain foods aggravate your symptoms.
Avoid tight undergarments
Tight underwear or any other tight-fitting clothing that can trap moisture, paving the way for irritation. Choosing cotton underwear that are well-fitting can help keep the area dry.
If you’re prone to constipation, discuss it with Dr. Perryman. In the meantime, adding more fluids and fiber to your diet can ease constipation. Fiber supplements such as psyllium and methylcellulose also may help.
Apply soothing cream or gel
Protect the affected skin from moisture by applying a zinc oxide ointment, such as Desitin or Balmex. Hydrocortisone cream can help reduce inflammation and provide some relief.
When to seek treatment
If you're experiencing bleeding or your itching is getting worse despite self-care, make an appointment with Dr. Perryman. Prepare to talk about your symptoms and medical history, including any medications you're taking, bowel movement frequency, and personal hygiene habits.
A physical exam, which may include digital and visual rectum exams, may also be required. Dr. Perryman may recommend laboratory tests to check for infections or diseases in some cases.
Give us a call at Colorado Colon & Rectal specialists if you’re dealing with anal itching or any other gastrointestinal issue. Simply call or book an appointment online.