Healthdirect Free Australian health advice you can count on.

Medical problem? Call 1800 022 222. If you need urgent medical help, call triple zero immediately

healthdirect Australia is a free service where you can talk to a nurse or doctor who can help you know what to do.

beginning of content

Anal care

8-minute read

Key facts

  • The anus is the last part of your bowel where your stool exits your body.
  • Anal problems can be distressing, but there are things you can do to prevent and treat them.
  • Your diet, digestion, sex, genetics and environment are factors that can affect your anal health.
  • Common issues include itching, anal fissures, infections and haemorrhoids.
  • Seek medical help if you have severe pain or bleeding from your anus.

Where is your anus?

The anal canal is made up of the last few centimetres of the bowel. It stores your solid waste (stool, poo or faeces). The anal opening (the anus) is where the faeces leave your body. During a bowel movement, the anal muscles (the sphincters) relax to release stool.

Diet, digestion, sexual activity and genetic and environmental factors all play a role in your anal health.

What conditions affect the anus?

Many different conditions can affect the anus. These include:

  • Anal fissures: small tears in the lining of the anus that may be caused by passing hard stool. They can also occur after childbirth, sex or diarrhoea. Most fissures heal within 1 to 2 months with good self-care, such as eating a high-fibre diet, drinking lots of water and careful anal hygiene to keep the fissure clean.
  • Anal abscess: a collection of pus, usually from an infection. A doctor will treat an abscess by draining the pus, using a local anaesthetic. You may need antibiotics.
  • An itchy bottom: also called pruritus ani, is a common problem. There are many possible causes, including infections, parasites such as threadworms, skin conditions, haemorrhoids and anal fissures. Ways to ease itching include not scratching the itch and gently cleaning the area without soap.
  • Haemorrhoids: lumps that occur in and around the anal passage. They are usually caused by constipation. If you have haemorrhoids, you may notice bright red blood on the toilet paper or in the toilet when you have a bowel motion (poo). Haemorrhoids often go away without any treatment. If you notice blood in your poo, it’s important to see a doctor, to make sure your symptoms are not a sign of something more serious.
  • Anal cancer: cancer affecting the tissues of the anus. Most anal cancers are caused by human papillomavirus (HPV). See your doctor if you are worried about anal cancer, and ask about vaccination.

CHECK YOUR SYMPTOMS — Use the Symptom Checker and find out if you need to seek medical help.

When should I see a doctor?

It can be distressing when there are problems with anal functions. If you have severe pain, or if the pain doesn’t improve in a few days, if you bleed from your bottom or have any new or unusual lumps it is important to seek medical advice.

FIND A HEALTH SERVICE — The Service Finder can help you find doctors, pharmacies, hospitals and other health services.

ASK YOUR DOCTOR — Preparing for an appointment? Use the Question Builder for general tips on what to ask your GP or specialist.

Tips for managing and preventing anal problems

Good anal hygiene

  • Keep the anal area clean by washing with water every day. Don’t use soaps as they will reduce the natural oils that protect the anus and may make the area dry and itchy. Use aqueous cream or a soap-free cleanser instead if you feel you need them.
  • Avoid vigorous wiping with toilet paper because this may cause further chafing of the skin, which can become inflamed or infected.
  • Avoid cleansing wipes or chemicals.

Good toilet practices

  • Don't delay going to the toilet — if you feel the urge, go.
  • Try not to strain when going to the toilet, as this can irritate the anal area and lead to complications.
  • Sit on the toilet properly:
    • keep your back straight, lean forward
    • rest your forearms on your knees
    • have knees higher than hips by lifting heels or using a footstool keep your legs apart.
Diagram of a person sitting on a toilet, with a small blue step under their feet. Text under the diagram says, 'Knees higher than hips. Lean forward and put elbows on your knees. Bulge at your abdomen. Straighten your spine.'
The correct toilet position.

Relieving anal discomfort

  • If the anal area is extremely painful and swollen, a cold compress or covered ice pack, such as a bag of frozen peas wrapped in a clean towel, may be used to relieve the pain and swelling. Do not keep the ice pack on the area for any more than 30 minutes.
  • If your pain continues, get advice on pain relief medicines from your doctor or pharmacist.
  • Over-the-counter creams, lotions and ointments may also relieve itching around the anal or rectal area. Follow the instructions or ask your pharmacist for advice.
  • Drinking plenty of water and eating fibre-rich foods, such as bran cereals, fruit and vegetables and whole grain bread, will help soften your stool to help prevent anal problems.


  • The best way to practice safe anal sex it to use a condom with water-based lubricant. This can reduce the risk of getting or transmitting sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and viruses like HIV or hepatitis.
  • To reduce your risk of anal fissures it is important to ask your sexual partners to remove any rings and trim their fingernails if they’ll be engaging in anal activities. It is also important to understand your own boundaries and only engage in activities that you feel comfortable with, and use plenty of water-based lubricants. Open anal fissures can make it easier to contract STIs because they are a point of entry for infections.
  • If you feel pain in your rectum or notice any unusual discharge from your anus, it could be a sign of STIs. It is important to talk to your doctor if you have any of these symptoms.
  • ‘Douching’ (using an enema) is not recommended except under medical care, as it can lead to damage of the rectum.

Support and resources

The Symptom Checker guides you to the next appropriate healthcare steps, whether it’s self care, talking to a health professional, going to a hospital or calling triple zero (000).

You can call the healthdirect helpline on 1800 022 222 (known as NURSE-ON-CALL in Victoria). A registered nurse is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

If you are still concerned about your anus, discuss your concerns with your doctor.

Learn more here about the development and quality assurance of healthdirect content.

Last reviewed: September 2023

Back To Top

Need more information?

These trusted information partners have more on this topic.

Top results

Anal fissure - Better Health Channel

Around half of cases of anal fissures heal by themselves with proper self-care and avoidance of constipation.

Read more on Better Health Channel website

Video: Anal fissure - Dr Naseem -

A fissure is a tear in the inner lining of the anal canal. Similar to a papercut on your hand. This tear is usually very painful and usually results in spasm of the sphincter muscles.

Read more on myDr website

Haemorrhoids during pregnancy

Haemorrhoids are an uncomfortable but common condition during pregnancy. Find out about what causes haemorrhoids and how to treat them.

Read more on Pregnancy, Birth & Baby website

Haemorrhoids self-care -

Haemorrhoids (piles) can be inside or outside the anal canal. They are common, particularly after 40 and during pregnancy. Find out what products are available for haemorrhoids.

Read more on myDr website

Haemorrhoids - Better Health Channel

A diet high in fibre can both treat and prevent haemorrhoids.

Read more on Better Health Channel website

Haemorrhoids -

Haemorrhoids are enlarged, congested veins just under the surface tissue of your rectum or anus. About 50 per cent of adults have had them by the time they turn 50.

Read more on myDr website

Haemorrhoids treatments -

Preventing constipation is the best way to avoid existing haemorrhoids becoming irritated and new ones forming. Avoid excessive straining and sitting on the toilet for any longer than a few minutes.

Read more on myDr website

Haemorrhoids in Pregnancy and Breastfeeding

Information in this leaflet is general in nature and should not take the place of advice from your health care provider

Read more on NSW Health website

Constipation and children - Better Health Channel

A healthy diet, plenty of fluids, exercise and regular toilet habits can help relieve constipation in children

Read more on Better Health Channel website

Video: Pilonidal disease - Dr Naseem -

Pilonidal disease is a skin disorder of the natal cleft (the dimple or crease between the buttock cheeks). It usually starts with an abscess which after draining leaves a pilonidal sinus.

Read more on myDr website

Healthdirect 24hr 7 days a week hotline

24 hour health advice you can count on

1800 022 222

Government Accredited with over 140 information partners

We are a government-funded service, providing quality, approved health information and advice

Australian Government, health department logo ACT Government logo New South Wales government, health department logo Northen Territory Government logo Queensland Government logo Government of South Australia, health department logo Tasmanian government logo Victorian government logo Government of Western Australia, health department logo

Healthdirect Australia acknowledges the Traditional Owners of Country throughout Australia and their continuing connection to land, sea and community. We pay our respects to the Traditional Owners and to Elders both past and present.