FISTULA

What is an anal fistula?

An anal fistula is a small tunnel that connects an abscess, an infected cavity in the anus, to an opening on the skin around the anus.

The anus is the external opening through which feces are expelled from the body. Just inside the anus are a number of small glands that make mucus. Occasionally, these glands get clogged and can become infected, leading to an abscess. About half of these abscesses may develop into a fistula.

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What are the symptoms of an anal fistula?

The signs and symptoms of an anal fistula include:

Frequent anal abscesses

Pain and swelling around the anus

Bloody or foul-smelling drainage (pus) from an opening around the anus. The pain may decrease after the fistula drains.

Irritation of the skin around the anus from drainage

Pain with bowel movements

Bleeding

Fever, chills and a general feeling of fatigue

You should see your doctor if you notice any of these symptoms.

How is an anal fistula diagnosed?

Your doctor can usually diagnose an anal fistula by examining the area around the anus. He or she will look for an opening (the fistula tract) on the skin. The doctor will then try to determine how deep the tract is, and the direction in which it is going. In many cases, there will be drainage from the external opening.

  • An anoscopy is a procedure in which a special instrument is used to see inside your anus and rectum.
  • Your physician may also order an ULTRASOUND or MRI of the anal area to get a better view of the fistula tract.

What are the treatments for an anal fistula?

Surgery is treatment of choice in fistula.

Patients who have very large or deep fistula tunnels may have to stay in the hospital for a short time after the surgery. Some fistulas may require several operations to get rid of the fistula.