Pruritus Ani
all information

Pruritus Ani

(Anal Itching)

En Español (Spanish Version)

Definition

Pruritus ani is an intense itching in and around the anus. This itching tends to be worse at night or after a bowel movement. The itch may be so intense that the urge to scratch is irresistible. Anal itching is a common problem that most people experience at one point or another.

The Anus

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© 2008 Nucleus Medical Art, Inc.

Causes

Most cases of anal itching are caused by harmless problems. On rare occasions it can be a sign of malignant skin conditions.

Below are some causes. Scratching removes the lining of the skin around the anus allowing for more irritation to occur. Scratching or excessive washing compounds the problem.

  • Skin disorders
  • Infections
  • Other causes
    • Dry skin or too much moisture
    • Excessive washing; soap contains chemicals that can irritate the skin
    • Excessive wiping with dry, harsh toilet paper
    • Chemical irritants such as laundry detergent, cologne, and birth control products
    • Frequent diarrhea
    • Overuse of laxatives

Risk Factors

A risk is anything that increases your chances of developing a disease or condition. The following may increase your risk of pruritus ani:

Symptoms

The irritation in and around your anus can be a temporary condition or it may be more persistent or bothersome. Pruritus ani produces itching, soreness, and burning.

Diagnosis

Your doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history and perform a physical exam. He or she will attempt to determine the cause of your condition.

Treatment

Talk with your doctor about the best treatment plan for you. Ideally, the cause of the problem will be identified and effectively treated. For example, antibiotics may be prescribed to treat an infection. In addition, treatment for the itching and irritation may include:

Self-care

  • Cleanse gently after bowel movements
  • Dry thoroughly
  • Talcum powder after bowel movements
  • Don’t scratch
  • Use unbleached, unscented toilet paper
  • Wear cotton underwear
  • Avoid irritants (bubble baths, foods, etc.)

Medication

  • Over the counter or prescription cream or ointment containing hydrocortisone or other corticosteroidss to reduce inflammation
  • Protective ointment, with zinc oxide

Prevention

  • Avoid laxatives
  • Avoid tight-fitting, synthetic clothing
  • Practice good hygiene
  • Avoid using anal performs, dyes, and any other irritants

RESOURCES:

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

American Academy of Family Physicians
http://www.aafp.org

CANADIAN RESOURCES:

Canadian Dermatology Association
http://www.dermatology.ca/english

Dermatologists.ca
http://www.dermatologists.ca/index.html

References:

Anal Itching. Mayo Clinic website. Available at: http://www.mayoclinic.com/invoke.cfm?id=DS00453 . Accessed September 26, 2005.

Pruritus Ani. Colorado Center for Digestive Disorders website. Available at: http://www.gastromd.com/education/print_pruritisani.html . Accessed September 26, 2005.



Last reviewed January 2008 by Ross Zeltser, MD

Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.

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