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Pruritus Ani Facts

Itching around the anal area is referred to as pruritus ani. This is a common condition that results in an urge to scratch around the skin of the anus. This can be a chronic condition, and the intensity of the itching can be quite bothersome. The specialists at Houston Colon offer treatment options and advice on how to manage this condition that can help you alleviate the discomfort associated with anal itching.


Pruritis ani is usually a symptom of an underlying condition such as hemorrhoids or anal fissures or also from excessive moisture in the anal area due to perspiration or residual stool around the anal area. Residual stool can result from frequent bowel movements, incomplete evacuation, or a weak sphincter. Other causes may include a fungal infection, allergic or contact dermatitis, warts, pinworms and psoriasis. In rare cases it may be associated with anal cancer.

It is important to have a thorough evaluation by a surgeon at Houston Colon to ensure proper diagnosis and management of your condition.

Contributing Factors

Often this condition is made worse by the tendency to scratch the area excessively. It is also a common tendency to clean the area vigorously with soaps and chemicals as well as overuse of scented wipes and pads. All of these measures serve to actually worsen the condition by damaging the skin and washing away protective natural oils.

Foods that are acidic and spicy as well as carbonated or caffeinated beverages may worsen the condition by irritating the anal area. Alcohol, especially beer and wine, and smoking are also well known to result in irritation.

What to Avoid

Avoid foods and beverages commonly known to irritate the area:

Try to follow the above measures as strictly as possible during the period of treatment recommended by the surgeons at Houston Colon (usually 4 to 8 weeks). Eventually, one can usually resume regular activities and eating habits with only slight modifications, depending on the cause of the symptoms.


In addition to the use of medications and specific measures instructed by your colon and rectal surgeon, it is important to follow the measures listed below to help relieve your symptoms:


Keep the area clean and dry. The best way to clean the area is to gently apply water pressure from a shower head or in the bath. Use warm water only and avoid any soaps or scrubs. Pat the area dry and apply a soft absorbent directly to the itchy area (such as cotton, a 4 x 4 gauze or cornstarch powder) to keep the area dry. Avoid all medicated, perfume and deodorant powders.


For hygiene after a bowel movement it is best to rinse with warm water and pat the area dry. If this is not possible, try to use wet tissue paper or a warm washcloth to blot the area clean. Avoid medicated or perfumed toilet paper, and avoid rubbing or excessive wiping.


Try not to scratch the itchy area. Scratching produces more damage, which in turn makes the itching worse. For individuals that experience irresistible itching at night, applying the recommended creams may be helpful.

What to ask your surgeon about surgery

Yes. In fact we are double board certified by both the American Board of Surgeons as well as the American Board of Colon and Rectal Surgeons.

Yes – We routinely perform several laparoscopic colon procedures each week.

Our surgeons have performed over 500 laparoscopic colectomies since 2004 which makes us one of the highest volume practices in the country.

Among the benefits, our patients recover sooner, require less pain medication, tolerate a diet and are discharged from the hospital earlier than patients undergoing open surgery.

Nearly all patients are candidates for this procedure – even if you have had previous open abdominal procedures or have many medical diseases.

As with any colon or general surgery there are several potential risks which we will discuss with you on an individual basis. However, we have seen significantly fewer risks with our patients following laparoscopic surgery – including a much reduced risk of wound infections.

This refers to the situation where you begin the surgery laparoscopically and must convert to the open technique for various reasons. Our rate of conversion is less than 5%.

Most of our patients are ready to leave the hospital in 3 or 4 days following surgery. This compares favorably to open surgery which usually requires 7 to 9 days.

Yes. Houston Colon surgeons maintain a prospective patient database which allows us to review and present our patient outcomes. We recently invited to present our data at TexMed 2006 – the annual meeting of the Texas Medical Association. Our outcomes have been very favorable with very low complication rates and compare well with published data from the Society of Colon and Rectal Surgeons.