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What is Pruritus Ani?

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  • Written By: wiseGEEK Writer
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 11 September 2019
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Pruritus ani is a general term for uncomfortable itch occurring at the anus. This can be a condition in and of itself with no other symptoms, or it may be a side effect of other health conditions, such as hemorrhoids or skin irritation on the genitals. It can be a difficult and embarrassing topic to discuss, but it is really worthwhile to get a physician consultation when the condition occurs or it keeps recurring. There are several ways pruritus ani may be managed, which can help reduce discomfort.

If another condition is present, doctors may first focus on treating it. For instance, severe hemorrhoids might need removal so that skin doesn’t remain irritated. Some people develop fissures in the anus too, and these can be extremely painful and result in itching. In other cases, though, no cause immediately presents itself, and doctors might take several approaches to determine underlying problems.

Occasionally, people get pruritus ani from foods they regularly consume, and to which they may have certain sensitivities. Such foods could include things like coffee, tea, dairy, tomatoes, nuts, sodas, or wine. Doctors might choose to eliminate one food at a time to determine if a culprit can be found. Should there appear to be less or more reaction to a specific food, making sure that food is permanently removed from the diet could make sense. Certain medications could cause sensitivity too.

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

The first rule most patients are given is to avoid any excessive rubbing and not to use harsh soaps or cleaners on the anus. Instead, people are advised to use cool or mildly warm water on a little bit of toilet paper to wipe, as needed. A little dry toilet paper can be used in a gently patting motion. Sometimes doctors also suggest a prescription anti-itch cream that can be applied, or they might recommend witch hazel, though there is some disagreement on its benefits.

Once any behavior that might exacerbate itching is addressed, and any other conditions or sensitivities are discovered, many people recover fairly quickly from pruritus ani. It can take a week to two weeks for aggressive itching to stop and skin might remain sensitive for a while afterward. This suggests maintaining the same anal care regimen, and making sure to get advice from physicians on what to do if the condition recurs.

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