An anal fistula is an infected tunnel that runs between the skin and the anal opening. This is usually the result of an infection that originates in an anal gland and causes an abscess - a swollen pocket of infected tissue and fluid. The fistula forms a tunnel under the skin and connects with the infected gland.
The small glands inside the anus produce mucous and occasionally become infected. Infections that don't heal in the right manner can lead to an anal fistula.
Risk factors for anal fistula
A person who has an anal abscess is at higher risk for getting an anal fistula. Health conditions that affect the bowels are other factors that increase the chances of developing a fistula. These conditions could include Crohn’s disease, sexually transmitted diseases, tuberculosis, certain cancers and diverticulitis.
Causes of anal fistula
The most common causes of an anal fistula are clogged anal glands and abscesses. Other conditions that may cause an anal fistula are Crohn’s disease, which is an inflammatory condition of the intestine, radiation received as treatment for cancer, trauma, sexually transmitted diseases, tuberculosis and diverticulitis - a disease in which small pouches form in the large intestine and become inflamed. Patients suffering from certain cancers also develop anal fistula.
Symptoms of anal fistula
A patient suffering from an anal fistula is likely to observe the following signs and symptoms.
Diagnosis of anal fistula
If a patient it is experiencing symptoms of an anal fistula the doctor will start by examining the area around the anus. The doctor will check if there is an opening on the skin, which is also called the fistula tract. She or he will aim to find out how deep this tract may be, and the direction in which it is going. Quite often there is drainage from this external opening.
In some cases, the fistula is not visible on the skin’s surface and the doctor may recommend additional tests. These tests could include:
Treatment of anal fistula
Post-surgery your surgeon is likely to recommend that you soak the anal area in a warm bath, also known as a sitz bath. It is also advisable to take stool softeners or laxatives for some days. Once an abscess and fistula have been treated correctly and heal they usually do not recur.
For the best treatment of an anal fistula consult a colorectal specialist at Medcare.