Anal fissures are rips, tears, ruptures, or openings in the moist, thin, delicate, and soft skin tissues of the anus, the lower rectum lining, or the anal canal that makes bowel movement very painful. This condition can either be short-term and acute or chronic and long-term it remains unhealed after eight to twelve weeks. Although anal fissures rarely lead to more serious problems, a chronic condition may need medical attention and treatment.
People of all ages can be affected by anal fissures although it is more common in young infants. These normally occur due to trauma and several non-traumatic diseases such as passing large, hard stools. An anal fissure can lead to pain or even bleeding. For more information about this condition, continue reading below!
What can cause an anal fissure?
An anal fissure can happen due to trauma or injury to the anal canal from any of the following causes:
● Passing of a large, dry, hard stool
● Constipation and straining during bowel movement
● Chronic, prolonged, or recurring diarrhea
● Childbirth which can cause trauma or even bowel prolapse.
● Anal sexual intercourse
● Insertion of a foreign object inside the anal canal
● Crohn’s disease, inflammatory bowel disease, or inflammation of the anorectal area
● Rectal examination
● Old age. Older people tend to have lower slower circulation, reducing blood supply to the anorectal area.
● The tension between the two sphincters or the muscular rings of the anus. You can consciously control the outer anal sphincter, but the contraction of the inner sphincter is involuntary. The latter is constantly under a lot of tension and pressure, causing spasms and reduced blood flow to the anus which can develop into a fissure.
● Rare causes include syphilis, tuberculosis, HIV/AIDS or even cancer.
What are the symptoms of an anal fissure?
If you have an anal fissure, you could experience the following:
● A sharp, burning, or stinging pain that worsens when passing stools. The pain can be severe and may last for brief periods of time to several hours. Severe pain can prevent people from pooping, leading to constipation or even fecal impaction. The pain should be checked by a doctor to ensure that it is not due to lesions or nodules associated with another condition called endometriosis.
● Itchiness or irritation of the anus
● A visible physical on the anal skin
● A small skin tag or lump around the anal area
● Pain that can also affect urination leading to dysuria, inability to urinate, or frequent urination.
● Bleeding. However, blood due to a fissure is separate from the stool itself. You may notice a few small drops of bright red blood on the tissue paper or toilet bowl.
● A foul-smelling discharge with pus from the anus
How can anal fissures be treated?
Several treatment methods can be done to heal short-term anal fissures over the span of a few weeks. However, some cases do not heal at all and come back now and then. To reduce the symptoms and discomfort or prevent anal fissures, follow these tips:
1. Eat a fiber-rich diet, exercise regularly, drink plenty of fluids, and take fiber supplements as needed.
2. Allot a specific, regular time for bowel movement and never strain.
3. Take laxatives or stool softeners to reduce the pain during bowel movement. Consult your doctor before taking any of these.
4. Soothe yourself by taking a sitz bath two to three times per day.
5. Ask your doctor about a non-prescription cream.
6. Use medicated pads or baby wipes instead of toilet paper to clean yourself after a bowel movement.
7. Do not avoid bowel movements as this can worsen your constipation and make the fissure more painful.
8. If you have a severe case of anal fissure, consult your doctor about medications or if surgery is an option for you.
While anal fissure is a common, painful problem, it is usually not serious. Home remedies and simple measures can also make the condition more manageable.