Anal Itch & Skin Irritation

Anal skin irritation can feel like an itch, a burning sharp pain or other sensation. You can feel it but you may not be able to see it. In fact, when the perianal skin feels irritated, it can look normal. The irritation is due to a breakdown in the skin barrier. It can start with a minor scratch such as scratch with your finger or wipe with a tissue. Normal bacteria that lives in the anal area, compounded with the intestinal fluid present in stool then intensify the irritation. Often, the skin breakdown is caused by excessive moisture from loose or liquid stool. A number of disease processes in the anal area can also lead to anal itch and skin irritation.

Causes of anal itch and perianal skin irritation

Common causes of anal itch or skin irritation include:

  • Fecal incontinence

  • Chronic diarrhea

  • Excessive cleaning of the anal skin

  • Prolapsed hemorrhoids or large skin tags

  • Drainage from anal fistula

  • Pruritus ani

  • Sexually transmitted disease (STD) such as anal herpes simplex virus (HSV) infection

  • Anal warts or dysplasia

  • Cancer of the anus or perianal skin

  • Fungal infection

  • Contact dermatitis (reaction to certain soap or cream, or clothing etc)

  • Eczema

  • Hidradenitis suppurativa

  • Rectal prolapse

  • Recent or previous radiation treatment to the pelvic region

Diagnosis and treatment of anal itch and skin irritation

Often a history and exam can make the diagnosis. If there is uncertainty or concern for a more serious problem such as cancer, a biopsy or additional tests may be needed. Accurately identifying the underlying cause and addressing that is often the primary treatment needed to get your skin better. Dr. Choi may also recommend certain skin care regimen or hygienic measures for symptom relief, especially if the condition is chronic and not readily correctible. If your problem is related to loose watery stool, Dr. Choi may recommend you to adjust your diet or take certain medications to thicken the stool. She can of course offer you surgery for surgically correctible causes, such as anal fistula, large prolapsed hemorrhoids or rectal prolapse.

Helpful links:


*American Society of Colon and Rectal Surgeons