Anal Itching (Pruritus Ani)

  • Medical Author:
    Jay W. Marks, MD

    Jay W. Marks, MD, is a board-certified internist and gastroenterologist. He graduated from Yale University School of Medicine and trained in internal medicine and gastroenterology at UCLA/Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles.

  • Medical Editor: William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR
    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    Dr. Shiel received a Bachelor of Science degree with honors from the University of Notre Dame. There he was involved in research in radiation biology and received the Huisking Scholarship. After graduating from St. Louis University School of Medicine, he completed his Internal Medicine residency and Rheumatology fellowship at the University of California, Irvine. He is board-certified in Internal Medicine and Rheumatology.

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Anal Itching Symptoms

Anal itching is due to irritation of the skin around the anus accompanied by a desire to scratch. The intensity of itching increases with moisture, pressure, and sitting.

Some people may experience the following related anal itching symptoms and signs:

  • Blood In Stool
  • Rectal Bleeding
  • Penile Itching

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Anal itching facts

  • Anal itching is itching around the anus.
  • Examples of causes of anal itching include hemorrhoids, anal fissures, pinworms, foods, medications, and other diseases or conditions.
  • Additional symptoms associated with anal itching include burning and pain if the anal skin is traumatized by scratching.
  • The diagnosis of the cause of anal itching requires examination of the anus for common anal problems such as hemorrhoids or fissures, skin diseases such as psoriasis or cancer, infectious diseases such as pinworms or yeast, and leakage of stool.
  • Treatment of anal itching depends on the cause.

What is anal itching?

Anal itching (known medically as pruritis ani) is the irritation of the skin at the opening of the anal canal through which stool exits the body. The skin surrounding the opening is known as the anus. The itching is accompanied by the desire to scratch. Although itching may be a reaction to chemicals in the stool, it often implies that there is inflammation of the anal area. The intensity of anal itching and the amount of inflammation increases from the direct trauma of scratching and the presence of moisture. At its most intense, anal itching causes intolerable discomfort that often is described as burning and soreness.

What causes anal itching?

  • Anal itching can be caused by irritating chemicals in the foods we eat, such as are found in spices, hot sauces, and peppers.
  • Anal itching also can be caused by the irritation of continuous moisture in the anus from frequent liquid stools, diarrhea, or escape of small amounts of stool (incontinence). Moisture increases the possibility of infections of the anus, especially yeast, particularly in patients with diabetes or HIV.
  • Treatment with antibiotics can lead to a yeast infection and irritation of the anus.
  • Psoriasis can irritate the anus.
  • Abnormal passageways (fistulas) from the small intestine or colon to the skin surrounding the anus can form as a result of disease (such as Crohn's disease), and these fistulas bring irritating fluids to the anal area.

Other problems that can cause anal itching include:

  • pinworms,
  • hemorrhoids,
  • tears of the anal skin (fissures), and
  • skin tags (abnormal local growth of anal skin).
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 10/22/2015

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