Causes of Anal Itching

Información en español

Anal itching, also known as pruritis ani, has many different causes.  If you have anal itching, you should get a rectal exam to evaluate the cause. You may need a skin biopsy and referral to see a dermatologist. Causes of anal itching include:

  • Stool and excess moisture on the skin around the anal opening.
  • A diet containing foods or drinks that irritate the anus.
  • Antibiotics. 
  • Topical medications or creams.
  • Skin allergy in the anal area.
  • Hemorrhoid tissue that can leave mucus and stool on the skin after bowel movements.
  • Excessive cleaning after a bowel movement, including the use of wet towelettes and soaps.

Less common causes of anal itching may also include:

  • Local diseases and conditions involving lower portions of the digestive tract.
  • Infections and parasites.
  • Dermatologic diseases.
  • Systemic diseases.

How to Stop Anal Itching

In most cases, providers treat anal itching by doing the following:
 
Thoroughly, but gently dry the anal area after every bowel movement. Use a squeeze bottle with warm water or bidet to rinse the area after bowel movements. You may also try a wet tissue or piece of cotton to clean the area. You can add soapless cleanser, such as Balneol (over-the counter), to the tissue or cotton.
 
Pat (do not rub) the area dry with toilet paper. You can use a hair dryer on a cool setting to help dry the area.
 
After the area is dry, dab witch hazel on it with cotton. You can also use medicated pads that contain witch hazel, such as Tucks Medicated Pads. These medications are available over the counter.
 
Use an over-the-counter barrier cream containing zinc oxide, such as Desitin or Boudreaux’s Butt Paste, by applying a small amount to the anal area. These creams tend to be greasy, so you may want to place a piece of gauze to prevent staining your underwear.
 
Apply a one percent hydrocortisone cream two to three times a day for no more than two weeks to relieve symptoms.
 
Drying agents such as cornstarch or baby powder may also be effective.
 
If you have hemorrhoid tissue that protrudes after a bowel movement, this needs to reduce internally in order to clean and dry the area.
 
Resist the urge to scratch, no matter how itchy the area becomes. The itch will pass, or at least decrease over a short time. The more you scratch, the longer it will take for the itching to go away.
 

Doctor with patient

Preventing Anal Itching

In many cases, you can prevent anal itching by taking the following steps:

  • Practice good anal hygiene – gently cleanse the anal area after every bowel movement by using wet, unscented and dye-free toilet paper. Wipe gently or blot the area. Never rub or scrub. Do not use wet wipes that contain alcohol.
  • When bathing or showering, use only water to clean the anal area, never soap.
  • Avoid using medicated powders, perfumed sprays, or deodorants on the anal area.
  • Eat a sensible diet that does not include many food and drinks that cause anal irritation. These include:
    • Spicy foods
    • Citrus fruits and citrus juices, such as oranges
    • Tomatoes
    • Caffeinated drinks (more than two cups of coffee per day)
    • Milk
    • Alcoholic drinks (especially beer and wine)
    • Carbonated drinks such as soda
    • Chocolate
  • Wear loose clothing and underwear – use underwear made from cotton rather than nylon or other synthetic materials.
  • Maintain regular, formed bowel movements. If you have a problem with loose stools or frequent bowel movements, gradually add fiber to your diet. Fiber supplements, such as Metamucil, Citrucel, and Benefiber, may help.
  • If you are taking oral antibiotics, eat yogurt to help restore the normal flora to your colon.

Find A Colorectal Specialist

Make an Appointment with a Colorectal Specialist

Referrals are welcome but not necessary when making an appointment with a member of the U of U Health colorectal surgery team. To request an appointment, call 801-587-5854 or request an appointment online.