Anal Fistulas

Anal Fistulas

Overview

An anal fistula is an abnormal tube-like connection, which forms between the inside of the anus (anal gland) and the skin right outside the anus.

Symptoms

The abscess causes intense pain and swelling around the anus that gets worse with bowel movements. Sometimes there’s discharge from an opening around the anus.

Causes

An anal fistula is usually caused from a previous abscess (a swollen area where pus gathers). As the pus drains, it can leave a channel between the bowel and the skin.

Diagnosis

An anal fistula can be diagnosed with a physical exam of the area. If your doctor sees a fistula, he or she will usually try to determine the depth and direction of the fistula. In some cases, further tests may be required.

Prevention

Almost all anal fistulas develop as a result of an abscess in the area. Sometimes abscesses are caused by Crohn’s disease, trauma, or STDs.

Treatment

Most anal abscesses can be drained in a doctor’s office under local anesthesia. If a fistula has developed, the doctor will need to surgically remove it.

Everyday Life

After the fistula has been removed, you’ll need to take antibiotics. You may want to wear a pad over your anal area until you’re healed. Sitz baths can help you feel better. Fill the tub with enough lukewarm water to cover your hips and buttocks. Don’t use soap or bubbles or any other products unless prescribed by your doctor. Relax in the sitz bath 3 to 4 times a day for about 10 minutes at a time.

Questions

  • When will I be able to resume normal activities after fistula surgery?
  • Should I change my diet?
  • Should I use a stool softener while healing from fistula surgery?
  • Should I use a laxative while healing from fistula surgery?