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Anorectal Abscess and Anal Fistula

Medically reviewed by Last updated on May 6, 2024.

What is an anorectal abscess and anal fistula?

Anorectal abscess and anal fistula are conditions that often occur together. An anal fistula is an abnormal tunnel from the anus or rectum to the skin or another organ. It usually forms when there is an anorectal abscess. An anorectal abscess is a collection of pus from an infection in the anus or rectum.

What causes an anorectal abscess and anal fistula?

You might have been born with an anal fistula. An anorectal abscess is commonly caused by different kinds of bacteria. Bacteria may enter the skin through a tear or plugged glands in the anus, usually from constipation or trauma. Rectal enemas to help empty your bowel may also cause a tear. Conditions that weaken your immune system, such as cancer, may increase your risk. An anal fistula may form from an abscess that has ruptured or has been drained. It may occur in conditions affecting the intestine and after injury.

What are the signs and symptoms of an anorectal abscess?

What are the signs and symptoms of an anal fistula?

How are an anorectal abscess and anal fistula diagnosed?

Your healthcare provider will look for any swelling, redness, or opening of a fistula in your anal area. Your provider may also check your rectum by inserting a gloved finger into your anus. This may help your provider feel abnormal tissue. You may need any of the following tests:

How are an anorectal abscess and anal fistula treated?

What are the risks of an anorectal abscess or anal fissure?

Surgery used to treat an anorectal abscess or anal fistula may cause you to bleed too much. You may get another infection from the surgery. A fistula may form after treatment of the abscess. Surgery to treat a fistula may injure other body parts, including the sphincter muscles. This may lead to problems with controlling bowel movements. If left untreated, the infection may spread to other parts of your body and make you very sick. If an abscess is not treated, it may also return.

When should I contact my healthcare provider?

Contact your healthcare provider if:

When should I seek immediate care?

Seek care immediately or call 911 if:

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 healthcare providers 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.

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