An infected cavity near the anus that’s filled with fluid or pus is referred to as an anal abscess. Usually caused by infected glands, anal abscesses often occur in patients who have had previous abscesses in the same area. A fistula (tunnel connecting infected or clogged glands to the abscess) sometimes forms as a result of an abscess, although a fistula can exist without an abscess.
The risk of developing anal abscesses can is greater for people with certain conditions, including Crohn’s disease, diabetes, ulcerative colitis, pelvic inflammatory disease, and diverticulitis (bulging sacs in the lining of the large intestine). Anal intercourse can also increase the risk of developing anal abscesses, as can the use of medications like prednisone.
Minor symptoms (superficial abscesses)
Serious symptoms (deeper abscesses):
An anal abscess usually occurs when bacteria enters the tissues through a tear in the lining of the anus or rectum, causing an infection. In some instances, the infection could be caused by a blocked anal gland or from a sexually transmitted infection.
Tears in the anal lining, known as anal fissures, may occur for many reasons. It could be due to chronic constipation or diarrhea, from passing large or hard stools, or as a result of an inflammatory bowel condition such as Crohn’s disease which can cause irritation to the lining of the anus.
Some people are more at risk of developing anal abscesses than others. Those undergoing chemotherapy or treatments which suppress the immune system, such as steroids, tend to be more susceptible to infection and therefore abscesses. Diabetes is also known to increase the risk of anal abscesses, as is pregnancy.
Individuals who have regular anal intercourse may also be at an increased risk of anal abscesses for two reasons. Firstly, they are more likely to develop anal fissures which could progress into an infection. Secondly, they are more at risk of contracting sexually transmitted infections unless they use condoms.
A rectal exam is usually all that’s necessary to diagnose an anal abscess. Diagnosis may also include screening for STDs (sexual transmitted diseases) or infections, rectal cancer, or inflammatory bowel disease. In some cases, a exam may need to be done under general anesthesia or an MRI or ultrasound may be performed.
Minor or superficial abscesses
Minor or superficial abscesses can usually be drained under a local anesthetic in a doctor’s office.
Deeper abscesses are drained in a hospital. Fistulas can develop after an abscess is drained, often requiring a follow-up outpatient procedure.
Anal abscesses may also result from anal glands that become clogged with fecal matter, bacteria, or sexually transmitted infections. The risk of developing anal abscesses can be reduced by using condoms during anal intercourse. Proper cleaning during diaper changes can reduce the risk for younger children.
Protecting against sexually transmitted infection is an incredibly important step in preventing anal abscesses, particular in those who regularly have anal intercourse. Frequent sexual health screenings should be had even for those who regularly use condoms. These can help to identify underlying infections which may not have yet shown any symptoms.
Preventing anal fissures is also an excellent way to prevent anal abscesses. You can avoid constipation and diarrhea and have regular, normal bowel movements by eating plenty of fiber and drinking lots of water. Secondly, by keeping the anal area clean and hygienic you can reduce the risk of infection in any instance that you do develop an anal fissure.
Those with health conditions such as Crohn’s disease and diabetes, which can increase the risk of anal abscesses, should strive to manage their condition as successfully as possible to avoid infection. Any concerns about the anal area should be rapidly taken to a doctor in order that it can be treated quickly before becoming significantly worse.