What is Pruritus Ani (PROO-RÍ-TUS A-NÍ)?
Itching around the anal area is called pruritus ani. This condition results in a compelling urge to scratch.
What Causes This To Happen?
Several factors may be at fault. A common cause is excessive moisture in the anal area. Moisture may be due to perspiration or a small amount of residual stool around the anal area. Pruritis ani may be a symptom of other common anal conditions such as hemorrhoids and anal fissures. The initial condition can be made worse by scratching, vigorous cleansing of the area or overuse of topical treatments.
In some individuals pruritus ani may be caused by eating certain foods, smoking and drinking alcoholic beverages, especially beer and wine. Food items that have been associated with pruritus ani include:
Does pruritus ani result from lack of cleanliness?
Cleanliness is almost never a factor. However, the natural tendency once a person develops this itching is 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.
What can be done to make this itching go away?
A careful examination by a colon and rectal surgeon or other physician may identify a definite cause for the itching. Your physician can recommend treatment to eliminate the specific problem. Treatment of pruritus ani may include these three points.
1. AVOID MOISTURE in the anal area:
2. AVOID FURTHER TRAUMA to the affected area:
3. USE ONLY MEDICATIONS AS DIRECTED BY YOUR PHYSICIAN. Apply prescription medications sparingly to the skin around the anal area and avoid rubbing. Prolonged use of prescribed or over the counter topical medications may result in irritation or skin dryness that can make the condition worse.
How long does this Treatement Usually Take?
Most people experience some relief from itching within a week. If symptoms do not resolve after 6 weeks, a follow-up appointment with your colon and rectal surgeon may be needed.
© 2008 American Society of Colon & Rectal Surgeons