Pruritus Ani

(Anal Itching)

Definition

Pruritus ani is an intense itching in and around the anus. This can cause you to feel the need to scratch. Anal itching is a common problem that many people experience at some time.

The Anus
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Causes  ^

Pruritus ani can be caused by many things, including:

  • Infections, such as pinworms, fungus, streptococcal skin infections, or sexually transmitted diseases
  • Skin disorders, such as contact dermatitis, or psoriasis
  • Hemorrhoids, anal fissures, anal fistula, proctitis, or skin tags
  • Certain foods, such as caffeinated drinks, alcohol, peanuts, tomatoes
  • Too much moisture around rectum
  • Certain medications, such as laxatives
  • Certain diseases, such as diabetes or liver disease

Risk Factors  ^

Other factors that may increase your chance of pruritis ani include:

  • Poor hygeine
  • Leaking stool

Symptoms  ^

The irritation in and around your anus can be a temporary condition or it may continue to bother you. Pruritus ani produces itching, soreness, and burning.

Diagnosis  ^

Your doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done. Your doctor will try to determine the cause of your condition.

Treatment  ^

Talk with your doctor about the best treatment plan for you. Ideally, the cause of the problem will be identified and treated. For example, antibiotics may be prescribed to treat a bacterial infection. Treatment for the itching and irritation may include:

Self-care

  • Gently cleanse the area with water when bathing
  • Take a sitz bath
  • Dry thoroughly
  • Use cotton, gauze, or cornstarch to absorb moisture
  • Don’t scratch
  • Use unbleached, unscented toilet paper
  • Wear loose cotton clothing and underwear
  • Avoid irritants (such as bubble baths, certain foods)

Medication

  • Over-the-counter or prescription cream or ointment containing hydrocortisone or other corticosteroids to reduce itching and provide protection
  • Zinc oxide ointment—to provide protection
  • Topical capsaicin—to reduce itching
  • Certain medications to treat infection if this is thought to be the cause of your itching

Prevention  ^

To help reduce your chance of pruritis ani:

  • Avoid tight-fitting, synthetic clothing
  • Try to keep the area clean and dry
  • Use barrier ointments
  • Avoid scratching at the area
  • Avoid using perfumes, dyes, and any other irritants on the area
  • Eat a healthy diet
  • Exercise regularly
  • Avoid certain medications (such as opioids or laxatives)
RESOURCES:

American Academy of Dermatology
http://www.aad.org

Family Doctor—American Academy of Family Physicians
http://familydoctor.org

CANADIAN RESOURCES:

Canadian Dermatology Association
http://www.dermatology.ca

Dermatologists.ca
http://www.dermatologists.ca

REFERENCES:

Pruritus ani. American Society of Colon & Rectal Surgeons website. Available at: http://www.fascrs.org/patients/conditions/pruritus_ani. Updated October 2012. Accessed December 4, 2012.

Pruritus ani. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at:http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T116635/Pruritus-ani. Updated June 13, 2012. Accessed December 4, 2012.

Siddiqi S, Vijay V, et al. Pruritus ani. Ann R Coll Surg Engl. 2008;90(6): 457–463.

Last reviewed December 2014 by Michael Woods, MD  Last Updated: 12/20/2014