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Anal itching, also known as itchy bottom, pruritus ani or anusitis, is irritation and sometimes inflammation of the anus - located at the exit of the rectum.
Anal itching can be extremely uncomfortable. In most cases, however, if the cause is identified it can be successfully treated.
This Medical News Today information article provides detailed information on what anal itching is, how common it is, the signs and symptoms of anal itching, what can set it off or exacerbate it, the causes of anal itching, how it is diagnosed, the treatment options, and possible complications.
Anal itching is not a disease in itself, but rather a sign or symptom. In the majority of cases there is an underlying cause or condition which causes it. However, sometimes the underlying cause is never found.
Itching severity varies and is usually exacerbated by such factors as type of clothing worn, whether the patient is seated or upright, moisture levels, pressure and general rubbing of the anal area.
Anal itching can become so severe that some people find it intolerable, describing the sensation as one of incredible burning and soreness.
Anal itching is much more common than people realize, because it is not a condition people tend to talk about with others.
According to the National Health Service (NHS), UK, about 1 in every 20 British people experience "itchy bottom".1 It is more common after the age of 40 years.
A symptom is something the patient feels or reports, while a sign is something that other people, including the doctor detects. A headache may be an example of a symptom, while a rash may be an example of a sign.
Most humans and other animals sometimes scratch their bottoms. For a person with pruritus ani (anal itching) the urge to scratch around the anus is very strong and persistent. Although the urge may occur at any time of day or night, it is more common after going to the toilet; especially if stools are liquidy.2 Some patients say the itching becomes more intense just prior to falling asleep.The symptoms of anal itching may include:
In most cases anal itching is a sign of a harmless physical problem, but not always. Below are some examples of possible causes:31
In order for doctors to diagnose the cause of your symptoms, they will need to know your medical history. They might ask what soaps, creams or powders you use on your anus or if your symptoms worsen after the consumption of certain food types.
You will also be asked when the itching is at its worst, and how long it lasts. They might also want to know if anyone else in your family has had or is suffering from anal itching.
The doctors may be able to come up with a diagnosis just from these questions alone5. However, if the cause is not clear you may be referred to a proctologist (doctor specializing in rectal and anal problems) or dermatologist (skin expert).
Diagnosis might be made just from a rectal exam. This will involve a doctor checking the anal area for any skin that is inflamed, cracked or bleeding. An internal exam may then be required; the doctor inserts his/her finger into the patient's anus.1
Doing this can help determine what is causing the anal itching as well as eliminating more serious conditions, such as colorectal cancer.
Most of the time itchy bottom is easy to treat and responds well to treatment. However, this does not stop it from recurring in the future. The type of treatment chosen is dependent on the cause.
Treatments may include:1
Scratching the anus too often can cause damage to the skin and may tear it. This can lead to:
Even though these complications are unpleasant, most of them can be treated effectively if you see your doctor as soon as symptoms appear.
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Nordqvist, Christian. "What is anal itching? What is itchy bottom? What causes anal itching?." Medical News Today. MediLexicon, Intl., 11 Dec. 2013. Web.
11 Mar. 2014. <http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/168728>
Nordqvist, C. (2013, December 11). "What is anal itching? What is itchy bottom? What causes anal itching?." Medical News Today. Retrieved from
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