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Anal itching - self-care

Anal itching occurs when the skin around your anus becomes irritated. You may feel intense itching around and just inside the anus.

Causes

Anal itching may be caused by:

  • Spicy foods, caffeine, alcohol, and other irritating foods and beverages
  • Scents or dyes in toilet paper or soap
  • Diarrhea
  • Hemorrhoids, which are swollen veins in or around your anus
  • Sexually transmitted infections (STIs)
  • Taking antibiotics
  • Yeast infections
  • Parasites, such as pinworms, which more commonly occur in children

Self-care at Home

To treat anal itching at home, you should keep the area as clean and dry as possible.

  • Clean the anus gently after bowel movements, without scrubbing. Use a squeeze bottle of water, unscented baby wipes, a wet washcloth, or wet unscented toilet paper.
  • Avoid soaps with dyes or fragrances.
  • Pat dry with a clean, soft towel or unscented toilet paper. Do not rub the area.
  • Try over-the-counter creams, ointments, or gels with hydrocortisone or zinc oxide, made to soothe anal itching. Be sure to follow the directions for use on the package.
  • Wear loose clothing and cotton underwear to help keep the area dry.
  • Try not to scratch the area. This can cause swelling and irritation, and make itching worse.
  • Avoid foods and beverages that can cause loose stools or irritate the skin around the anus. This includes spicy foods, caffeine, and alcohol.
  • Use fiber supplements, if needed, to help you have regular bowel movements.

When to Call the Doctor

Call your health care provider if you have:

  • A rash or lump in or around the anus
  • Bleeding or discharge from the anus
  • Fever

Also, call your provider if self-care does not help within 2 or 3 weeks.

Alternative Names

Pruritus ani - self-care

References

Abdelnaby A, Downs JM. Diseases of the anorectum. In: Feldman M, Friedman LS, Brandt LJ, eds. Sleisenger and Fordtran's Gastrointestinal and Liver Disease. 10th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2016:chap 129.

Ansari P. Pruritus ani. Clin Colon Rectal Surg. 2016;29(1):38-42. PMID: 26929750 www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26929750.

Davis B. The management of pruritus ani. In: Cameron JL, Cameron AM, eds. Current Surgical Therapy. 12th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2017:295-298.

Review Date 5/14/2017

Updated by: Linda J. Vorvick, MD, Clinical Associate Professor, Department of Family Medicine, UW Medicine, School of Medicine, University of Washington, Seattle, WA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

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