What is an anal fistula?
An anal fistula is a red bump, sometimes with pus, that occurs around the anus and buttocks.
What causes an anal fistula?
While the exact cause is hard to determine, anal fistulas are often caused by clogging or bacterial infection of the anal glands. As pus accumulates, it creates a channel between the bowel and the skin surrounding the anus.
What are the symptoms?
- Swelling around the anus or buttocks, with consistent pain inside or surrounding
- Itching around the anus or surrounding skin
- Leaking of blood or discharge (pus during defecation in the chronic stage)
- High fever, nausea and vomiting
How are anal fistulas different from hemorrhoids?
Both diseases have similar symptoms: pain around the anus and blood mixed in with stool. However, unlike hemorrhoids, anal fistulas do not heal on their own. Patients should therefore schedule an appointment with a specialist as soon as possible.
Treating an anal fistula
Treatment focuses on maximizing relief while minimizing the risk of incontinence. There are many surgical techniques depending on how advanced the disease is, and a doctor will diagnose the best way to proceed. There are two main types of surgery:
- A fistulotomy or fistulectomy is suitable for a shallow fistula, barely passing through the anal sphincter and therefore minimizing incontinence
- LIFT surgery (ligation of intersphincteric fistula tract) is a new technique used when having to go deeper through the sphincter. Since there is no incision in the muscle, incontinence problems are usually minimal
How to prevent anal fistulas?
Since the disease has no clear cause, there is unfortunately no way to protect yourself.
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