Anal itch or some people may call it rectal itch is also known as pruritus ani (proo-rí-tus a-ní). It is a fairly common condition. Most people think that the reason they cannot stop scratching their butt is because of hemorrhoids. But hold your breath or your gas (so to speak), there is more to itchy butt than you think.
There are several benign conditions which can cause anal itch. Conditions to keep in mind are hemorrhoids, fecal incontinence of varying magnitude and severity, anal fistulae and condyloma (anal warts). Anal fissures are very painful but may be a cause of anal itch in chronic cases.
Other benign conditions which can cause anal itch are contact dermatitis, fungal infections, diabetes, pinworm infections, psoriasis and seborrhea (dermatitis of the oil glands).
A common cause of anal itch is excessive moisture in the area. Moisture may be due to perspiration or a small amount of residual stool around the anus. Itching can be made worse by scratching, vigorous cleansing of the area or overuse of topical treatments. Use of dry rough toilet paper can be another source of itch. You might as well use sand paper (just kidding!).
In some individuals, itching can be caused by eating certain foods, smoking and drinking alcoholic beverages, especially beer and wine. Examples of food items associated with anal itch are coffee, tea, carbonated beverages, milk products, tomatoes and tomato products such as Ketchup, cheese, chocolate and nuts. That is hell of a list. If you are over indulging in any of these items then you may know where the problem lies.
Cleanliness is next to godliness, so once a person develops the itch there is a tendency to wash the area vigorously and frequently with soap and a washcloth. This almost always makes the problem worse by damaging the skin and washing away protective natural oils. God will not be happy with that.
What about cancer? Yes, we have to keep that condition in mind. You may recall, Farrah Fawcett, one of the Charlie’s Angels, was diagnosed with anal cancer in 2006. She died in June of this year.
Be aware of the condition but do not panic. Anal cancer is fairly uncommon. It accounts for about one to two per cent of gastrointestinal cancers. About 4,000 new cases of anal cancer are diagnosed each year in the U.S.A., about half in women. Approximately 600 people will die of the disease each year.
Anal cancer is commonly associated with the human papilloma virus (HPV). This virus causes warts in and around the anus and on the cervix in women. It is associated with an increased risk of cervical cancer in women.
If you have anal itch, then talk to your doctor and get the area thoroughly checked. This includes a good history and a physical. Visual inspection of the anal area, a digital rectal examination and a scope test should be part of the examination. A biopsy of the area and stool test may be necessary. Once this is complete then the doctor (or a specialist) should be able to give you a diagnosis of the problem.
Treatment depends on the cause of the problem. Besides that there are things you can do. Try dietary modifications. Avoid moisture in the anal area by using cotton balls, gauze or corn starch powder. Avoid further injury to the area by avoiding soap of any kind and do not scrub the area. For hygiene, it is best to rinse with warm water and pat the area dry. Use wet toilet paper, baby wipes or a wet washcloth to blot the area clean. Never rub.
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