What is pruritus ani?

Pruritus ani is a general term for uncomfortable itching that occurs in the anus. This can be a condition on its own with no other symptoms, or it can be a side effect of other health conditions, such as hemorrhoids or skin irritation on the genitals. It can be a difficult and embarrassing subject to discuss, but it's really worth getting a consultation with your doctor when the condition occurs or keeps recurring. There are several ways to treat anal itching, which can help reduce discomfort.

If there is another condition, doctors may focus on treating it first. For example, severe hemorrhoids may need to be removed so that the skin does not remain irritated. Some people also develop fissures in the anus, which can be extremely painful and itchy. However, in other cases, there is no immediate cause, and doctors can take several approaches to determine the underlying problems.

Occasionally, people get pruritus ani from foods they eat regularly and to which they may have certain sensitivities. Such foods can include things like coffee, tea, dairy, tomatoes, nuts, soft drinks, or wine. Doctors may choose to eliminate one food at a time to determine if a culprit can be found. In case there seems to be less or more of a reaction to a specific food, it may make sense to ensure that the food is permanently removed from the diet. Certain medications can also cause sensitivity.

Another common cause of a prolonged case of pruritus ani is the person's response to the initial itching. It's natural to want to scratch an itch, and people can do it with their fingers, toilet paper, washcloths, or other things that actually cause the skin to become more irritated. Part of the doctor's treatment may be advising patients on how to care for the condition so that the swelling can resolve.

The first rule most patients are given is to avoid excessive rubbing and not to use harsh soaps or cleansers on the anus. Instead, people are advised to use cool or slightly lukewarm water on some toilet paper to clean as needed. A little dry toilet paper can be used with gentle movements. Sometimes doctors also suggest a prescription anti-itch cream that can be applied, or they may recommend witch hazel, although there is some disagreement about its benefits.

Once any behavior that may exacerbate the itch is addressed, and other conditions or sensitivities are discovered, many people recover fairly quickly from pruritus ani. Aggressive itching may take one to two weeks to stop, and the skin may remain tender for a while afterward. This suggests sticking to the same anal care regimen and making sure you get advice from doctors on what to do if the condition recurs.

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