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Can an Anal Fistula Heal on Its Own?

Can an Anal Fistula Heal on Its Own?

When an abscess affects the anal area, a tunnel can form between the skin of the buttocks and the anal canal. Called an anal fistula, it’s a painful condition that carries a high risk of complications if left untreated. 

Symptoms of an anal fistula include pain and inflammation in the anal area, as well as local redness and itchiness. You may also experience pus drainage, and the underlying infection could make you feel fatigued with alternating feelings of fever and chills. 

Dr. Lisa Perryman at Colorado Colon & Rectal Specialists diagnose anal fistulas with a review of your symptoms and medical history, along with a physical examination of the symptomatic area. Treatment is usually multifaceted, dealing with both the infection and the physical changes made by the fistula. 

Can an anal fistula heal on its own?

While it’s possible, in theory, for an anal fistula to heal spontaneously, this usually doesn’t happen. Most fistulas in this region start in anal glands that do become infected. Even if a fistula begins to heal, chances are very high that abscesses and infections will happen again. 

The healing challenges of anal fistulas

Fistulas occur about 50% of the time after an anal gland becomes infected, and this climbs to 75% if a pus-filled abscess develops from the infected gland. Pus must find a way to drain itself, and this begins the tunneling that creates the fistula. 

The anal area is rich in bacteria, so the risk of reinfection is high.  Treating the infection alone won’t heal an anal fistula.

Anal fistula surgery

The surgical approach chosen by Dr. Perryman usually depends on the nature of your fistula. Fistulas can be simple or complex. 

Simple fistulas have no branches off the primary tract. A procedure called a fistulotomy removes a minimal amount of tissue, allowing the fistula to heal. It’s an effective way to treat simple fistulas. 

Complex fistulas involve more muscle, and the primary fistula tract could have many branches. Since extensive cutting of muscle tissue could jeopardize bowel control, a fistulotomy isn’t the best choice for complex fistulas. 

A common approach for complex anal fistulas uses a seton, a type of surgical thread that’s looped through the fistula to promote drainage and healing of the tract. Other surgical techniques are available if the seton drain isn’t the best option for you. 

If you’re living with the effects of an anal fistula, chances are poor that the problem will go away on its own. Instead, call or click to schedule an appointment with Colorado Colon & Rectal Specialists in Parker, Colorado. 

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