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Anal Itching


Disease: Anal Itching Anal Itching
Category: Digestive diseases
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Disease Definition:

Also  called pruritus ani, anal itching is itching around the anus, which is the canal that’s the outlet for the rectum. The itch in the anus or on the skin just around the anus is often intense, with a strong urge to scratch, which could be embarrassing and uncomfortable.

Anal itching has many causes and many reasons that may make it even more intense, such as abrasion caused by clothing, moisture and the pressure of sitting.

Anal itching is a common problem that many people have experienced, and most people can achieve complete relief from it. A person shouldn’t be afraid to talk with their doctor about this condition.

Work Group:

Prepared by: Scientific Section

Symptoms, Causes


Other similar symptoms are associated with anal itching, such as:


  • Soreness or pain
  • Burning

The itching and irritation in and around the anus may either be a persistent and bothersome problem, or it may be a temporary condition.
In some people, the urge to scratch is embarrassing as well as irresistible because the irritation is so intense.


In some rare cases, anal itching could be a sign of more serious medical problems, but mostly it is caused by a harmless problem, such as:

Too Much Moisture:
Anal itching can be caused by frequent diarrhea or escape of small amounts of stool (fecal incontinence). It could also be caused by moist sticky stools that can be irritating.

Dry Skin:
Dry skin can cause persistent and intense anal itching and the more a person ages, the more the skin in and around the anus will be prone to dryness.

Chemical Irritants:
In people with sensitive skin, scented or colored toilet paper can be irritating. There are also certain colognes, laundry soaps, douches and birth control products which contain chemicals that can be irritating to the skin around the anus.

There are some medications, such as some types of antibiotics that can cause frequent diarrhea, leading to anal itching.

Excessive Washing:
Excessive scrubbing with harsh soaps, wiping with dry, harsh toilet paper or not being able to rinse the soap can irritate and aggravate anal itching.

Food Irritants:
There are some foods that may directly or indirectly irritate the anus as they exit the colon, such as chocolate, tomatoes, nuts, alcohol and popcorn. There are also some foods that contain irritating chemicals, such as spices and hot sauces. Some people might experience diarrhea followed by anal itching after consuming certain beverages that contain milk or caffeinated drinks.

Anal irritation and itching can be caused by chronic diarrhea, which may result from improper or excessive use of laxatives.

In children, persistent anal itching can be caused by the parasite that causes pinworms. Other parasites may also cause itching. Sexually transmitted diseases may also involve the anus and cause anal itching.

Anal itching can be a symptom of hemorrhoids, which are engorged veins located just under the membrane that lines the lowest part of the rectum and anus and usually result from straining during a bowel movement.

Skin Disorders:
The area in and around the anus could be irritated by common skin problems, such as eczema, psoriasis and seborrhea.

Anal Tumors:
In some rare cases, anal itching can be caused by a cancerous or noncancerous tumor in or around the anus.

Yeast Infections:
The genital and anal areas could be irritated by this common infection, which usually affects women.

Anal Abrasions and Fissures:
While anal fissure is a deep tear in the anus, an anal abrasion is a small one and is usually the result of forced bowel movements through a tight anus. Anal itching, painful bowel movements and bleeding can be caused by both of these conditions.

Other Causes:
Anxiety or stress could also lead to anal itching. Sometimes, the cause is not determined.

A person’s own actions contribute to the problem of anal itching and it is almost never a problem of cleanliness. No matter what is the cause of anal itching, the reaction will be to scratch it, worsening the problem by removing the superficial layers of skin. Excessive washing can also aggravate the condition by removing the skin’s natural protective oils.





Depending on the cause of the problem, treatment may include self-care measures, treatment of infections, changes to the diet, and in some very rare cases, surgery to correct an underlying problem.

The treatment may also include medications, such as an over-the-counter cream or ointment that contains hydrocortisone, which should be applied sparingly to the affected area to reduce inflammation and itching. In case the symptoms get worse at night, a person may be prescribed an antihistamine to reduce itching until topical treatments take effect. A protective ointment containing zinc oxide may also be used.

In less than a week, most people experience relief from anal itching in case it is properly treated. But if it doesn’t get any better in more than six weeks, a doctor should be consulted.


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