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What is Anal Itch?
Anal itch can be defined as an intense itching around the anal area.The itch can be so insistent that resisting the urge to scratch may be difficult or impossible, often anal itch can worsen at night, causing sufferers to lose sleep. This can understandingly become an extremely uncomfortable situation and many times people suffering from rectal itching feel embarrassed to talk about it with their doctors.
Anal itch is also known as pruritus ani. Treatment for anal itching is normally prescribed after establishing the underlying cause of symptoms.
Symptoms of Anal Itch
The symptoms and signs of anal itch include:
Diagnosing Anal Itch
Anal itch is a condition which affects males and females equally, and knowing what to expect before entering a doctor’s office can help ease anxious sufferers. A doctor will ask a number of questions about overall health and symptoms to determine the underlying cause of anal itch. Since rectal itching can be caused by a number of reasons, both internal and external, specific tests may be performed to pinpoint the cause and adequate treatment plan for pruritus ani.
Although anal itch is an embarrassing condition, the more information about the condition a doctor can receive from a patient, the easier it will be to find proper treatment and symptomatic relief.
What Causes Anal Itch?
- Candida Albicans Overgrowth (Candidiasis)
- Anal Fissures
- Fungal Infections
- Infections: Sexually Transmitted Diseases
- Parasites: Tapeworms, Pinworms & Anal Pubic Lice
- Low Stomach Acid
- Food Irritants
- Skin Disorders: Psoriasis
- Excessive Moisture & Sweating
- Dry skin
- Excessive Washing
- Chemical Irritants
- Overuse of Laxatives
- Liver Diseases
Pruritus Ani During and After Pregnancy
Pruitis ani, otherwise known as anal itch, is not specifically related to pregnancy, but is still a familiar complaint in pregnant women. Many pregnant women feel symptoms of pruritus ani due to the development of unwanted, but very common, hemorrhoids. Hemorrhoids are swollen pouches formed underneath the mucous membranes inside or outside the rectum, and exhibits uncomfortable symptoms such as itching, burning, and pain.
Women with constipation during their pregnancy have a higher risk of hemorrhoids due to the straining during bowel movements, causing increased pressure on the rectal veins. Hemorrhoids develop in pregnant women in the third trimester and will usually go away on their own after delivery. Soaking in a warm sitz baths and applying cold compresses, provides some relief for hemorrhoid symptoms. Seek medical advice if itching in the rectum becomes unbearable or persistent.
Anal Itching and Burning in Children
Children can develop itchy bottoms, and when this happens it can be quite alarming to parents. Sometimes anal itching in children can be as simple as excessive sweating or poor hygiene, washing children in luke warm, soapy water, can halt itching in the anus. Another common cause for anal itching in children is pinworms. Pinworms are little worms that infect the intestines; they are 1-2cm long and are most prevalent in school aged children.
Pinworms are contagious and are transported by children through their fingers or under their fingernails - it is important to know that pets do not spread pinworms. Children who don’t wash their hands after playing, and who suck their thumbs are at high risk. Children with pinworms frequently scratch their bottoms, move around in their sleep, and may even report seeing worms in their stool. Washing clothing and bedding, keeping fingernails short, changing underwear, and showering everyday will help to rid and prevent pinworms.
Chronic Anal Itching
Chronic anal itching is defined as a persistent itch in the rectum. Two underlying causes include, yeast infections and diet. Some individuals with chronic anal itch may have a fungal infection. Fungi, especially Candida, love warm, moist places, like inside and around the anus. When a person scratches the area where the Candida is living, it creates more damaged skin, and a great place for fungi to take hold and worsen.
Keeping the anus dry is the most important remedy for fungal infection, powders, and clean dry underwear can help to ensure a dry anal area. Certain foods can cause irritation during a bowel movement causing anal itching. Common foods are curry, peppers, jalapenos and anything spicy.
More uncommon foods are citrus fruits, like grapes, tomatoes, lemons, and oranges, all of which can cause chronic itching if eaten in excess or on a daily basis. Cutting out these foods, or changing diets to a more fibrous meal plan can help to quell itching after defecation. In any case, when changing diet or washing the anal area does not help chronic itching, a physician should be consulted.
Help for Anal Itch
There are various treatment options, depending on the cause, to relieve the symptoms of anal itch. Although the urge to scratch may be extremely strong, scratching will only aggravate the problem.
If scratching during sleep is suspected, wearing cotton gloves at night until the symptoms subside is highly recommended. There are also a number of steps to find relief from anal itch and prevent possible future occurrences.
Stop Anal Itch:
A lot can be done to naturally maintain and promote anal skin health. It is a good idea to support overall systemic balance by eating lots of fresh fruit and vegetables and whole grain foods, ensuring plenty of fresh air, adequate sleep, moderate sunshine and regular exercise. Also avoid tight clothing and synthetic underwear.
- Add some oatmeal to your bath water. Oatmeal has naturally soothing qualities that help soften and heal irritated and itchy skin.
- Promote tissue healing with Aloe Vera. Aloe Vera mixed with olive oil or tea tree oil can be applied to the area to promote healing.
- Keep the anal area clean. Moistened toilet paper or wipes are gentle on the skin and make it easier to thoroughly cleanse the anal region.
- Keep the anal area dry. Unscented baby powder or cornstarch can be applied to the area to keep moisture at bay and prevent chafing and irritation.
- Eat plenty of fiber. A common cause of anal itch is constipation. Increasing your fiber intake will promote healthy digestion and stools and possibly relieve symptoms and prevent future occurrences. Fruits, vegetables and whole grains are great sources of dietary fiber.
- Wash undergarments with a mild soap. Laundry detergents can be extremely irritating due to the chemicals present in some of them. The same goes for fabric softeners. Wash underwear with a mild unscented soap to prevent future irritation and itch.
More Information on Anal Itch
Anal itch can be a symptom of a number of serious medical conditions. If anal itch is accompanied by weight-loss, bloody stools, or painful bowel movements; it is important that to consult a health-care provider immediately.