A patient who feels ill and complains of chills, fever and pain in the rectum or anus could be suffering from an anal abscess or fistula. These medical terms describe common ailments about which many people know little.
An anal abscess is an infected cavity filled with pus found near the anus or rectum.
An anal fistula, almost always the result of a previous abscess, is a small tunnel connecting the anal gland from which the abscess arose to the skin of the buttocks outside the anus.
An abscess results from an acute infection of a small gland just inside the anus, when bacteria or foreign matter enters the tissue through the gland. Certain conditions – colitis or other inflammation of the intestine, for example – can sometimes make these infections more likely.
After an abscess has been drained, a tunnel may persist connecting the anal gland from which the abscess arose to the skin. If this occurs, persistent drainage from the outside opening may indicate the persistence of this tunnel. If the outside opening of the tunnel heals, recurrent abscess may develop.
Symptoms of both ailments include constant pain, sometimes accompanied by swelling, that is not necessarily related to bowel movements. Other symptoms include irritation of skin around the anus, drainage of pus (which often relieves the pain), fever, and feeling poorly in general.
A painful swelling in the anal area is often thought to be a hemorrhoid but can bean abscess. It is important to seek medical care to have the area examined so you can be placed on the best treatment.