Itchy anus (pruritus ani)
Having an itchy bum or an itchy anus can be an embarrassing and uncomfortable problem. However, anal itching is quite common and once the cause is discovered and treated, most people get complete relief.
An itchy anus, also called pruritus ani, is a common complaint. The itch, in or around the anus, can be extremely intense and persistent, causing a constant urge to scratch.
What causes an itchy anus?
There are many different possible causes for having an itchy anus, such as:
- leakage of poo (stool) from the rectum as a result of diarrhoea, constipation, diet, food intolerance or tears in the rectum
- infections such as herpes, bacteria or tinea
- intestinal parasites such as threadworms. The itch is usually worse at night, and you might be able to see small, white worms that are around 8-13 mm long
- haemorrhoids (piles), warts, and in extremely rare cases, cancer of the anus
- excessive sweating
- a health condition like diabetes or underactive thyroid
- skin conditions like psoriasis and contact dermatitis, which can occur when your skin is irritated by soaps, creams or perfumed or bleached toilet paper
- a health problem like diabetes or underactive thyroid
One of the most common causes of pruritis ani is overcleaning. Try to avoid using soap, shampoo or bubble baths in this area as they remove the natural protective oils. Long hot baths or showers can also be problematic.
How can I care for an itchy anus at home?
CHECK YOUR SYMPTOMS — Use the Blood in stool and rectal problems Symptom Checker and find out if you need to seek medical help.
There are numerous things you can try to ease the itching.
- While tempting, try not to scratch, though this is sometimes unavoidable during sleep. Scratching can make the itch worse, as the skin around the anus is easily damaged.
- Clean gently with a cotton wool ball dipped in warm water immediately after a bowel motion, then pat dry with a soft cloth. Don’t rub, as this has the same effect as scratching. Avoid perfumed toilet paper.
- Take a quick, cool shower after going to the toilet.
- If sweating is causing the itching, you can fold a tissue into a small square and place it on the area to absorb moisture during the day.
- If threadworms are causing the itching, you can buy medication over the counter from your pharmacy. The treatment should be repeated in 2 weeks. The whole family will need to be treated.
- Wear loose clothing made from natural fibres, such as cotton.
- Avoid irritating foods such as caffeine, alcohol, tomatoes, spices and citrus fruit.
- Choose sensitive skin care and hygiene products, such as perfume-free creams, soap substitutes and toilet paper. Avoid using soap in the area, and keep showers short and not too hot.
- If you aren’t already doing so, eat healthily and include gentle exercises. This encourages regular smooth and firm stools.
When should I see a doctor?
Despite taking these measures, it’s important to see your doctor if:
- you have any anal bleeding
- the area seems to be infected
- you don’t know what’s causing the itch
- the itching is intense
- the itching lasts longer than 2 months
Your doctor can ensure that rare and specific conditions (such as worms and anal cancer) aren’t overlooked, and can prescribe treatments for the cause of the itch.
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Last reviewed: October 2021