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Pruritus Ani

(Anal Itching)
  • Definition

    Pruritus ani is an intense itching in and around the anus. This can cause you to feel the need to scratch. Anal itching is a common problem that many people experience at some time.
    The Anus
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  • Causes

    Pruritus ani can be caused by many things, including:
    • Infections, such as pinworms, fungus, streptococcal skin infections, or sexually transmitted diseases
    • Skin disorders, such as contact dermatitis, or psoriasis
    • Hemorrhoids , anal fissures , anal fistula , proctitis, or skin tags
    • Certain foods, such as caffeinated drinks, alcohol, peanuts, tomatoes
    • Too much moisture around rectum
    • Certain medications, such as laxatives
    • Certain diseases, such as diabetes or liver disease
  • Risk Factors

    Other factors that may increase your chance of pruritis ani include:
    • Poor hygeine
    • Leaking stool
  • Symptoms

    The irritation in and around your anus can be a temporary condition or it may continue to bother you. Pruritus ani produces itching, soreness, and burning.
  • Diagnosis

    Your doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done. Your doctor will try to determine the cause of your condition.
  • Treatment

    Talk with your doctor about the best treatment plan for you. Ideally, the cause of the problem will be identified and treated. For example, antibiotics may be prescribed to treat a bacterial infection. Treatment for the itching and irritation may include:
    • Gently cleanse the area with water when bathing
    • Take a sitz bath
    • Dry thoroughly
    • Use cotton, gauze, or cornstarch to absorb moisture
    • Don’t scratch
    • Use unbleached, unscented toilet paper
    • Wear loose cotton clothing and underwear
    • Avoid irritants (such as bubble baths, certain foods)
    • Over-the-counter or prescription cream or ointment containing hydrocortisone or other corticosteroids to reduce itching and provide protection
    • Zinc oxide ointment—to provide protection
    • Topical capsaicin—to reduce itching
    • Certain medications to treat infection if this is thought to be the cause of your itching
  • Prevention

    To help reduce your chance of pruritis ani:
    • Avoid tight-fitting, synthetic clothing
    • Try to keep the area clean and dry
    • Use barrier ointments
    • Avoid scratching at the area
    • Avoid using perfumes, dyes, and any other irritants on the area
    • Eat a healthy diet
    • Exercise regularly
    • Avoid certain medications (such as opioids or laxatives)

    American Academy of Dermatology

    Family Doctor—American Academy of Family Physicians


    Canadian Dermatology Association


    Pruritus ani. American Society of Colon & Rectal Surgeons website. Available at: Updated October 2012. Accessed December 4, 2012.

    Pruritus ani. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: Updated June 13, 2012. Accessed December 4, 2012.

    Siddiqi S, Vijay V, et al. Pruritus ani. Ann R Coll Surg Engl. 2008;90(6): 457–463.

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