Manhattan Gastroenterology
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Having an itching anus is not unusual. Many people experience itching inside or around the rectum due to several factors, including some infection, hemorrhoids, or even an underlying condition that can be treated by a professional. If you suffer from frequent episodes of anal itching or your itching is worsening, schedule an appointment at NYC Gastroenterology to learn about the possible causes and treatment options to relieve the annoying urge to scratch all the time. The top-rated specialists at Manhattan Gastroenterology are committed to ensuring the highest quality care and outcomes for you with their knowledge and skills and help you seek the relief you deserve without wasting time.

Hemorrhoids
Hemorrhoids

Anal itching is a common condition. You may develop the itch inside or around the anus, which is often intense, and feel a strong urge to scratch. Anal itching can be uncomfortable and embarrassing if you do not address it promptly.

Everyone can experience an itchy anus from time to time. The anus is the opening at the bottom of the gastrointestinal tract where the waste leaves the body as stool or feces. Also known as pruritus ani, anal itching has many possible causes, such as skin problems, hemorrhoids, and washing too much or not enough. In many cases of anal itching, the symptoms worsen at night and even affect your sleep.

Even though some anal itching is normal, persistent or severe itching can be annoying and lead to complications if not treated by a trained healthcare professional. It is best to talk to your doctor if you are experiencing frequent episodes of anal itching that do not seem to be in control.

The following symptoms accompanied by an itchy anus indicate some underlying condition or serious problem:

  • Bleeding
  • Leaking stool
  • Signs of infection
  • No obvious cause

You can look forward to complete and lasting relief with proper treatment and self-care.

Issues That Lead to Anal Itching
Anal itching can develop for several reasons, from skin problems and irritation to medical conditions.

Skin Conditions or Infections

Skin conditions like eczema, psoriasis, or contact dermatitis not only affect your hands, arms, or face. They can develop around your anus too. Some people also experience anal itching if they have a yeast infection, sexually transmitted disease, or parasites like pinworms.

Irritation

The sensitive skin around the anus can become irritated for several reasons. Chronic diarrhea and fecal incontinence are the most common reasons, but you can also develop symptoms due to hygiene practices, mainly if you use harsh soaps and wipes or wash too vigorously.

Sometimes you can have an itching anus without an apparent cause.

Causes of Anal Itching

Causes of the itchy anus can be primary, meaning there is no sign of another condition, or they could be secondary, meaning there is an identifiable underlying cause.

Dietary Causes

If you have eaten something that does not go well with you, it may result in anal irritation and itching. Foods and drinks that cause an itchy anus include:

  • Caffeinated drinks
  • Alcohol
  • Milk products
  • Peanuts
  • Spices
  • Citrus fruits
  • Tomato
  • Chocolate
  • Chilies

You may experience the following problems in case your anal itching is triggered by foods:

  • Reduced strength of the anal muscle that often results from caffeine
  • Exaggerated anal reflexes
  • Skin sensitivity which often results from indigestion or food intolerance, or allergy
  • Loose and frequent stools that increase the chances of seepage and recurrent wiping and cause itching in the anal area

Despite research, there is no evidence that avoiding a specific food can eliminate or reduce anal itching.

Gastroenterological Causes

Sometimes a problem with the gastrointestinal system or the bowels can lead to anal swelling and itching. Potential causes include:

  • Hemorrhoids or piles
  • Anal cancer
  • Conditions that involve diarrhea, including irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and IBD, such as Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis

Dermatological Conditions

Skin irritation often results from dermatological or hygiene conditions. Some of the factors are:

  • Prolonged contact with feces, poor hygiene, fecal incontinence, and seepage
  • High moisture levels that can lead to increased sweating, particularly in hot weather
  • Persistent diarrhea that leads to more wiping and irritating the skin
  • Eczema, psoriasis, and idiopathic dermatitis
  • Keloid scars that consist of hard, smooth scar tissue
  • Scabies, a very itchy rash that is caused by microscopic mites
  • Allergy or contact dermatitis, which can flare up after using certain products
  • Yeasts infections, such as thrush
  • Bacterial skin infections
  • Viruses such as the human papillomavirus (HPV), which can lead to genital warts
  • Parasites, such as pinworm and hookworm
  • Small skin tags, which can trap moisture and make cleaning the area difficult
  • Proctitis, or inflammation of the inner lining of the rectum

Medications

Side effects of certain medications can cause itching in the anus. They include:

  • Chemotherapy
  • Colchicine
  • Neomycin
  • Corticosteroids

Systemic Conditions

Some conditions that affect the entire body can cause itching in the anus. They include:

  • Anemia
  • Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD)
  • Jaundice
  • Leukemia
  • Liver disease
  • Autoimmune diseases
  • Anal or rectal disorders such as piles, fistulas, and anal fissures
  • Hemorrhoids

Underlying Conditions

You can develop anal itching from an underlying medical condition. They include:

  • Thyroid disease
  • Diabetes
  • Tumor

Psychological Factors

For some people, psychological factors can lead to anxiety, stress, and depression that trigger anal itching.

It is best to consult your healthcare provider if your anal itching is not improving or continues to worsen. The doctor can analyze your symptoms and review your hygiene and medical history to recommend the best treatment for your specific condition.

When to Seek Medical Help?

The itchy anus is rarely a medical emergency, and it can get better with a little care and over-the-counter treatment. If you begin to experience rectal bleeding or the skin inside or around the anus breaks and you feel extreme pain or burning sensation along with itching, call your doctor immediately. Bleeding may be a sign of recurrent gastrointestinal bleeding.

If itching disrupts your routine life and worsens even after treatment self-care, seek medical attention.

Treating an Itchy Anus

Treatment of anal itching depends on its cause. Whether your symptoms are mild or severe, your doctor can recommend the best treatment options and self-care ways to get your symptoms under control and ensure comfort.

Self-care approaches to managing anal itching include:

  • Avoiding scratching the affected area
  • Using anti-itch cream or skin protectant as directed
  • Avoiding bath products that contain perfumes or dues as they can irritate the skin or cause an allergic reaction
  • Cleansing the affected area gently with plain water or mild soap
  • Drying the anal area thoroughly after bathing or using the restroom
  • Using soft toilet paper that does not contain any harsh bleach or dyes
  • Using moistened wipes or toilet paper moistened with water to prevent stool from sticking to the anal skin
  • Avoiding potential irritants, like harsh soaps, moist wipes, or bubble baths
  • Eliminating foods that can cause diarrhea, like coffee, alcohol, and chocolate
  • Increasing fiber intake to support regular, firm bowel movements
  • Wearing breathable, white cotton underwear and avoiding pantyhose or clothing that can irritate the skin
  • Sitting in a sitz bath for about 20 minutes after the bowel movement to reduce the irritation and itching

If your anal itching results from hemorrhoids or other medical conditions, the doctor will provide specific treatment to target the cause and provide relief. In case an infection is causing trouble, the doctor can prescribe an antifungal, antibacterial, or antiparasitic treatment to eliminate the infectious organisms.

For people who experience itching at night, oral histamines can help until the anti-itch cream works.
Prescription ointments contain a higher amount of steroid that reduces itching and inflammation.
Applying the ointment to clean, dry skin at night and morning after a bowel movement can keep the itching away.

Experiencing anal itching once in a while is normal. It may result from repeated trips to the toilet in case of diarrhea, wiping vigorously, or wearing tight and restricted clothing, but it gets better with time. However, call your doctor if anal itching continues to bother you and you find yourself scratching more the normal with pain or inflammation inside or around the anus. The board-certified and experienced gastroenterologists at Manhattan Gastroenterology diagnose the causes of your itchy anus and recommend a combination of treatments and remedies to address your specific symptoms. You can look forward to getting expert advice regarding your condition and quick and lasting relief with specialists.

Updated on Oct 16, 2022 by Dr. Shawn Khodadadian (Gastroenterologist) of Manhattan Gastroenterology