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Itchy Anus

Anal itching, or pruritus ani, is a common symptom of a variety of conditions. Most cases of anal itching can be treated at home without need for further intervention.

What causes an itchy anus?

The causes of itchy anus are often related to skin or internal medical issues. Skin-related causes of itchy anus include:

  • atopic dermatitis, a form of eczema
  • excess friction to the anal area, such as rough wiping after a bowel movement
  • exposure to perfumes and dyes present in toilet tissue, soaps, or clothing detergents
  • improper wiping after having a bowel movement
  • psoriasis

Medical conditions that can cause an itchy anus include:

Other causes include taking laxatives or other medications that cause diarrhea. Certain foods are also linked with itchy anus. These include:

  • chocolate
  • spicy foods
  • caffeinated beverages
  • tomatoes
  • citrus fruits

What are the signs and symptoms of an itchy anus?

In addition to itchy anus, you may also experience:

  • burning
  • soreness
  • visible redness
  • swelling
  • ulcers
  • rash

When to seek medical help

Itchy anus symptoms are rarely a medical emergency. An exception is when you experience bleeding from your rectum. Bleeding may signal recurrent gastrointestinal bleeding.

Make an appointment to see your doctor if your itchy anus disrupts your daily life and is getting worse even after self-care treatments.

How is an itchy anus treated?

If an itchy anus is due to an infection, a doctor can prescribe an antifungal, antibacterial, or antiparasitic treatment to eradicate the infectious organisms. Prescription ointments that have higher steroid doses can also lessen itching and reduce inflammation.

Hemorrhoids that cause an itchy anus may require more invasive treatments, such as banding to shrink the hemorrhoid or surgical removal of the hemorrhoid.

Avoiding foods and medications known to cause itchy anus can also reduce symptoms.

How do I care for an itchy anus?

You can take several steps at home to treat an itchy anus. Consider the following:

  • Apply petroleum jelly or Vaseline to the affected area.
  • Clean the area with water and a soft washcloth when bathing.
  • Dry the anal area thoroughly after using the restroom and bathing.
  • Refrain from scratching the anal area.
  • Refrain from using bath products that contain perfumes or dyes, which can irritate the skin or cause an allergic reaction.
  • Use toilet paper that doesn’t contain harsh dyes or bleaches.
  • Wear breathable cotton underwear that is not too tight.
  • Wipe with moistened wipes or toilet paper moistened with water to prevent stool material from staying on the anal skin.

Many drugstores sell special basins that allow you to take a sitz bath. In a sitz bath, you place your buttocks and hips in warm water for up to 20 minutes. Sitting in a sitz bath after a bowel movement can help reduce irritation and itching. Always gently dry the anal area after the bath.

You can also purchase several over-the-counter topical creams to treat anal itching. These include zinc oxide, hydrocortisone cream, or topical capsaicin cream.

How can I prevent an itchy anus?

Living a healthy lifestyle can help prevent an itchy anus. These lifestyle measures include:

Diet and exercise

Eating well and getting regular exercise can help promote digestive regularity to prevent diarrhea and hemorrhoids.

Good hygiene

Practicing good hygiene can help prevent itching. Good practices include refraining from scratching and keeping the anal area clean and dry.

Loose clothing

Wearing loose-fitting clothing with natural, breathable fibers can minimize irritation and moisture.

Clear soaps and detergents

Refraining from using soaps and detergents with dyes and perfumes can also prevent skin irritation that leads to an itchy anus.

Content licensed from:

Written by: Rachel Nall, RN, BSN
Medically reviewed on: Oct 28, 2016: Graham Rogers, MD

This feature is for informational purposes only and should not be used to replace the care and information received from your health care provider. Please consult a health care professional with any health concerns you may have.
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