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Pruritus Ani

(Anal Itching)

Definition

Pruritus ani is itching in and around the anus. Anal itching is a common problem. It may be mild or severe.

The Anus
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Causes

Anal itching can be caused by many things. They may be:

  • Skin problems, such as contact dermatitis or psoriasis
  • Certain diseases, such as cancer, diabetes, or liver disease
  • Infections, such as:
    • Pinworms
    • Fungi
    • Skin infections from strep bacteria
    • Sexually transmitted infections
  • Hemorrhoids, anal fissures, anal fistula, proctitis, or skin tags
  • Certain foods, such as:
    • Tea, coffee, colas
    • Alcohol
    • Chili peppers
    • Citrus
    • Milk
    • Tomatoes
  • Too much moisture around the anus
  • Soaps, scents, and lotions that irritate
  • Certain medicines

Risk Factors

Things that raise the risk of anal itching are:

  • Any of the causes listed above
  • Cleaning the area too much or not enough
  • Sweating
  • Leaking stool

Symptoms

Symptoms are itching and burning in and around the anus. They may go away soon or last a long time.

Diagnosis

The doctor will ask about your symptoms and health history. A physical exam may be done. The doctor will look for a cause.

Treatment

The goal of treatment is ease symptoms. Underlying causes will be treated, if known.

Treatment options may be:

  • Self-care, such as:
    • Not using irritating products
    • Using sitz baths and gentle cleaning
    • Wearing loose-fitting clothing
  • Over the counter or prescription medicines, such as:
    • Cortisone creams or ointments—to reduce itching and protect the area
    • Zinc oxide ointment—to protect the area
    • Capsaicin cream—to reduce itching
  • Medicines to treat any underlying conditions

Prevention

The risk of anal itching may be lowered by:

  • Not using products that irritate
  • Keeping the area clean and dry
RESOURCES:

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

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

CANADIAN RESOURCES:

Canadian Association of Gastroenterology
https://www.cag-acg.org

Canadian Dermatology Association
https://dermatology.ca

REFERENCES:

Ansari P. Pruritus ani. Clin Colon Rectal Surg. 2016;29(1):38-42.

Pruritus ani. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/condition/pruritus-ani. Accessed February 19, 2021.

Pruritus ani expanded version. American Society of Colon and Rectal Surgeons website. Available at: https://www.fascrs.org/patients/disease-condition/pruritis-ani-expanded-version. Accessed February 19, 2021.

Last reviewed January 2021 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Mary Beth Seymour, RN  Last Updated: 2/19/2021