What Causes Itching in the Anal Area?

Anal itching, or pruritus ani, is a common yet embarrassing problem. Anal itching is usually an isolated symptom in a healthy individual. People are able to treat many causes of anal itching at home. However, people experiencing chronic anal itching, or itching accompanied by other symptoms, should discuss the symptom with a physician to determine the underlying cause.

Woman sits at on a stool at a counter. (Image: Kathleen C Petersen/iStock/Getty Images)

Hemorrhoids

Hemorrhoids are swollen and inflamed veins of the anus and lower rectum. People often develop hemorrhoids due to increased pressure on the veins of the anus and rectum, often caused by constipation, obesity, pregnancy or anal intercourse. Symptoms of hemorrhoids include itching, burning and bright red blood during bowel movements. Internal hemorrhoids may not be noticeable, but external hemorrhoids can feel like painful grapelike bulges around the delicate lining of the anus. Physicians often recommend over-the-counter creams for mild hemorrhoid cases but may recommend surgical intervention if the patient is experiencing a great deal of discomfort.

Anal Fissures

Anal fissures are small tears in the lining of the anus. Anal fissures are most often caused by constipation, which causes tears in the rectal lining. When the skin tears around the rectal muscle, the muscle fibers contract, causing spasms that cut off blood supply, which impairs healing. Symptoms of anal fissures include pain and burning, itching, rectal bleeding, and visible cracks along the outer skin of the anus. Anal fissures are commonly treated with corticosteroid-based creams, but physicians may recommend surgical interventions if the fissures will not heal.

Pinworms

Pinworms are small worms that live in the intestines. Pinworms are highly contagious, and while they are most common among children, anybody can get them. The most common symptom of pinworm infection is anal itching. Once a physician has made a diagnosis of pinworms, he will prescribe a medication to kill the pinworms and eggs. Physicians often recommend treating the entire household with medication as well as washing all sheets, blankets and towels with hot water, carefully cleaning everyone's fingernails and scrubbing toys, countertops and floors.

Skin Disorders

Many skin conditions may lead to anal itching. The anal skin is exposed to digestive wastes, which can be irritating to the tissues of the rectum and anus, causing rashes. Frequent stools, diarrhea, constipation, scratching, scrubbing with soap and water, and spicy or acidic foods may all irritate the skin. In some cases, patients may suffer from an overgrowth of a fungus known as Candida albicans, commonly known as a yeast infection. Physicians can treat yeast infections with prescription medications or, in some cases, over-the-counter medications.

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