Pruritus Ani

Definition
Pruritus ani, which means “itchy anus” in Latin, is a condtion that produces an intense urge to itch the skin around the anus. This is a common ailment and affects approximately 1 to 5% of the general population. Pruritus ani may be caused by a number of conditions, traumas, or skin problems, which is why patients should see their colon and rectal physician for treatment. Persistent anal itching should be evaluated by a physician to rule out the presence of a serious condition such as an infection, sexually transmitted disease, anal tumor, or hemorrhoids.

Causes
Pruritus ani may fall under a “primary” or “secondary” classification depending on the cause. Primary pruritus ani is considered “idiopathic,” which means there is no known cause of the condition. Secondary pruritus ani usually has an identifiable and treatable cause such as changing personal care habits, treating a sexually transmitted infection, managing a pre-existing skin condition (i.e. psoriasis or contact dermatitis, etc.), or mitigating a medical condition (i.e. chronic diarrhea, hemorrhoids, anal tumors, etc.). 

Risk Factors
Because pruritus ani can be caused by a number of conditions or ailments, there are many different risk factors patients must consider. Those with skin problems such as psoriasis, contact dermatitis, or a fungal infection may be at risk of developing pruritus ani.  Patients with a present medical condition such as hemorrhoids, diabetes mellitus, kidney failure, liver disease, anemia, hyperthyroidism, and more may be at risk of pruritus ani. According to the American Society of Colon and Rectal Surgeons, dietary factors may also play a role in pruritus ani. Coffee, tea, cola, chocolate, citrus fruits, spicy foods, dairy, beer, and nuts may lead to pruritus ani. 

Symptoms
The most common symptom of pruritus ani is anal itching. Patients may also experience the following symptoms:

  • Anal itching accompanied by burning, redness, and tenderness around the anus
  • Anal itching that is persistent
  • Infection surrounding the anus
  • Anal bleeding

Treatments
Treatment for pruritus ani depends on the cause. A colon and rectal physician may recommend a number of home-care remedies and medications to reduce itching, pain, and discomfort causing pruritus ani. Treatment may include nonprescription anti-itch cream, an oral antihistamine, change in skin care routine, or prescription medication to treat an underlying medical condition.