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Anal Fissure

What is an anal fissure?

An anal fissure is a cut or tear in the tissue inside your anus. An anal fissure may be acute or chronic. An acute anal fissure is usually small and shallow and often heals without treatment. A chronic fissure may last longer than a month and will usually require treatment. A chronic anal fissure comes back after treatment.

What causes an anal fissure?

Anal fissures may occur when your anal muscle becomes too tight. Your anal muscle forms a ring around your anus and helps control your bowel movements. When this muscle becomes too tight, there is decreased blood flow to your anus. You may also have too much pressure around your anus. Other possible causes may include any of the following:

  • Bowel problems: Constipation may cause you to strain, which may cause an anal fissure. Certain bowel diseases may also cause anal fissures, including Crohn disease and inflammatory bowel disease.

  • Cancer: Cancer in your anus may cause your anal tissue to tear. Leukemia is another cancer that may cause you to have an anal fissure. Treatments for cancer, such as chemotherapy, may also cause an anal fissure.

  • Infections: Certain infections, such as HIV, syphilis, and tuberculosis may increase your risk for an anal fissure.

  • Trauma: The area around your anus may tear when you give birth. Anal trauma may also be caused by anal intercourse.

What are the signs and symptoms of an anal fissure?

  • Pain that lasts several hours around your anus after you have a bowel movement

  • Bleeding from your anus

  • Bright red blood in your bowel movement or spots of blood on your toilet paper

  • Pain while you urinate or have sex

  • Spasms in your anus

  • Itching around your anus

How is an anal fissure diagnosed?

Your caregiver will ask about your symptoms and when they started. He may ask about your bowel movements, diet, and medicines that you take. He may also ask if you have any other medical conditions. Tell your caregiver if you have had any procedure or surgery done in or around your anus. Your caregiver will look at your anus to check for cuts or tears. He may put a gloved finger inside your anus to check for a tear or cut in your anus. If you are in severe pain, you may get local anesthesia. Your caregiver may also remove a piece of anal tissue and send it to a lab for testing.

How is an anal fissure treated?

You may also need to have the cause of your anal fissure treated. You may need any of the following to treat your anal fissure:

  • Home care:

    • Sitz bath: You may need to soak in a warm tub or take a sitz bath. A sitz bath may decrease your pain and relax your anal muscle. You may need to do this more than once a day. Ask your caregiver for information on how to use a sitz bath and how often you should bathe.

    • Nutrition: Eat foods that are high in fiber. This will help keep your bowel movements soft. High-fiber foods include fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.

    • Drink more liquids: Liquids may help soften your bowel movements. This will help prevent you from straining. Ask your caregiver how much liquid you should drink each day.

  • Medicine:

    • Stool softeners: Your caregiver may also give you medicine that makes your bowel movements softer. This helps prevent constipation. You will be less likely to strain and cause an anal fissure if you are not constipated.

    • Pain medicine: Your caregiver may give you medicine to take away or decrease your pain. He will tell you how much to take and how often to take it. Take the medicine exactly as directed. Tell your caregiver if the pain medicine does not help, or if your pain comes back too soon.

    • Topical medicine: Topical medicine may be put just inside your anus. The medicine may help your anal muscle relax and increase blood flow to your anus. This medicine may contain anesthesia to help decrease your pain. Your caregiver will teach you the right way to use topical medicine.

    • Botulinum toxin: This is medicine given as a shot into the skin around your anus. It helps your anal muscle relax. Ask your caregiver for more information about botulinum toxin.

  • Surgery: You may need surgery if other treatments do not work. You may also need surgery if your anal fissure is very painful. Surgery is often used for chronic anal fissures. The most common surgery is called a lateral internal sphincterotomy. A small part of your anal muscle is cut to help relax your anal muscle and decrease your pain. Your caregiver may remove all or some of your anal fissure. This is called a fissurectomy.

What are the risks of an anal fissure?

  • Topical medicine for your anal fissure may give you a headache or make you feel lightheaded. Your skin may become red and you may also have a burning feeling on your anus. The botulinum toxin shot may hurt and may cause muscle weakness. It may also cause a painful infection of the tissue covering your anal muscles. You may also be less able to feel the area in and around your anus. Botulinum toxin or surgery may make you unable to control your bowel movements or passing gas. This is called incontinence. Surgery may also cause bleeding, an infection, or injury to your anal tissue. Even with treatment, your anal fissure may occur again.

  • Without treatment, your anal fissure may deepen or become infected. You may develop an abnormal opening from your anus to nearby organs. Scar tissue may form in your anus and cause it to become narrow. Without treatment, you may have worse pain during bowel movements.

When should I contact my caregiver?

Contact your caregiver if:

  • You are unable to have a bowel movement.

  • You have spasms in your anus that do not stop.

When should I seek immediate care?

Seek care immediately or call 911 if:

  • You have very bad pain in or around your anus.

  • You have bleeding from your anus that does not stop.

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your caregivers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment. The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

© 2014 Truven Health Analytics Inc. Information is for End User's use only and may not be sold, redistributed or otherwise used for commercial purposes. All illustrations and images included in CareNotes® are the copyrighted property of A.D.A.M., Inc. or Truven Health Analytics.

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