What is an anal fissure?
An anal fissure is a tear or crack in the lining of the lower rectum (anal canal) that causes pain during bowel movements. Fissures are sometimes confused with hemorrhoids. Most anal fissures heal with home treatment after 4-6 weeks. These are called short-term (acute) anal fissures.
What are the common causes of anal fissures?
Anal fissures can be caused by trauma to the anus and anal canal. The trauma can be caused by one or more of the following:
Chronic (long-term) constipation
Straining to have a bowel movement, especially if the stool is large, hard and/or dry
Insertion of foreign objects into the anus
What are the signs and symptoms of an anal fissure?
Pain during, and even hours after, a bowel movement
Blood on the outside surface of the stool
Blood on toilet tissue or wipes
A visible crack or tear in the anus or anal canal
Burning, throbbing and itching that may be painful
How are anal fissures treated?
The goal of anal fissure treatment is to lower the pressure on the anal canal by making stools soft, and to ease discomfort and bleeding. Conservative treatments are tried first and include one or more of the following:
* Preventing constipation through the use of stool softeners;
* Dietary adjustments (increase in intake of high fiber foods and fiber supplements);
* Soaking in a warm bath (also called a sitz bath), 10 to 20 minutes several times a day, to help relax the anal muscles;
* Cleansing the anorectal area more gently;
* Avoiding straining or prolonged sitting on the toilet;
*Applying creams and ointments. These may include a medicated cream (to help heal the fissure), a topical muscle relaxant (to relax the anal muscles), and an anesthetic ointment (to reduce pain, if pain interferes with having a bowel movement).