An anal fistula is a small channel that makes an abnormal connection between the end of the bowel and the skin near the anus. More often than not, anal fistulas start from an infection near the anus that causes a collection of pus (abscess) in the nearby tissue.
“The collection of pus grows and stretches the skin through the lining of the anus. Thus a connection is formed between the skin and anus. Surgery to drain away the pus may also leave a small channel behind. This is known as an anal fistula, and it may cause bleeding and discharge when passing motion, and can be painful.”
Most anal fistulas develop as a result of anal abscesses. Anal fistulas are formed as a reaction to an anal gland with a pus-filled infection (anal abscesses). They can occur if the abscess does not heal properly after the pus has drained away on its own.
A small number of fistulas may be caused by other conditions such as Crohn’s disease, sexually transmitted diseases, tuberculosis, diverticulitis, cancer, or surgery near the anus. These affect your lower digestive tract or anal area and increases your risk of anal fistula.
What Are The Risk Factors That Cause Anal Fistulas?
Anal Fistulas have an increased risk of development under certain conditions. They are:
A medical history of anal abscesses or fistulas
Crohn’s disease (a condition causing inflammation of the digestive tract)
Ulcerative colitis (a condition that causes irritation, inflammation, and ulcers in the lining of your large intestine)
Diverticulitis (a condition that causes inflamed pouches in the lining of the intestine)
What Are The Symptoms Or Warning Signs If I Have Anal Fistulas?
The end of the fistula may be visible as a hole in the skin around the anus, though it may be difficult for you to see it yourself.
Common symptoms of anal fistula include:
A constant and throbbing pain that may worsen when you move about, sit down, cough, or have a bowel movement
Skin irritation around your anus
Swelling or redness around your anus
Discharge of blood or pus when you go to the toilet
How Can Anal Fistulas Be Prevented?
Anal fistulas can be prevented by practising good dietary, lifestyle and bowel habits. These habits include:
Getting sufficient dietary fibre
Drinking an adequate amount of water
Keeping active and exercising regularly
Not delaying your bowel movement
Eating fibre-rich foods may help prevent constipation. This helps to prevent the formation of large, hard, or dry stools, which may lead to an anal fissure. Simultaneously, consuming sufficient fibre will help your stools soften while promoting more frequent bowel movements.
Staying hydrated and drinking sufficient water is another key that may help prevent constipation. By adding enough fluid to your system, it makes stools softer and easier to pass.
A lack of physical activity is one of the most common causes of constipation. Keeping active may help ensure that your digestive system is kept in reasonable condition while promoting bowel movement.
Holding your bowels in when it is time to pass may lead to harder stools. As stools get dryer and harder with time, they get tougher to pass if held in the body for too long.
How Are Anal Fistulas Diagnosed?
Our doctor will perform a physical and rectal examination for you to check for signs of an anal fistula. This is done by examining the skin around your anus and looking for an external opening in your skin. If it is possible, the depth and direction of your fistula tract will be determined.
Otherwise, our doctor may use an anoscope, a special instrument that helps him see inside your anal canal. Further imaging tests such as an ultrasound, CT scan, or MRI scan may be used to provide images of the affected area for diagnosis.
What Are The Potential Complications Of Anal Fistulas?
Complications of an anal fistula may result in a recurring fistula after treatment. Anal fistulas, when untreated, may also lead to faecal incontinence (an inability to control bowel movements). This condition occurs when some of the muscles around the anal sphincter are removed.
How Are Anal Fistulas Treated?
A physical examination of the affected area is typically used to diagnose an anal fistula. Your doctor may check for pain, redness and swelling in the anal region while observing if further investigations are required. If a patient is experiencing severe pain and drainage near the area of the fistula, it could be a sign of infection.
For anal-rectal fistulas, your doctor may deploy a sigmoidoscope to conduct an internal examination of the fistula. This investigation not only helps our doctor determine the location and cause of the fistula. It also helps identify signs caused by Crohn’s disease. Depending on the situation, surgery may be recommended. This procedure is known as fistulectomy.
In some instances of deeper perianal abscesses, where the signs are not immediately visible, an endoscope may be used to look inside the anal canal and lower rectum.
Our doctor may also arrange for an imaging test such as a CT scan, ultrasound, or MRI for a more accurate diagnosis.
He was directed to a colorectal surgeon who attempted to cut and drain the abscess.
I had to undergo an emergency surgery because the abscess on my bum was getting pretty bad. Dr Ganesh was detailed and wasted no time in treating me as I was in a lot of pain and honestly, I could feel pus coming out and it’s just disgusting, I just wanted it treated.
Dr Ganesh helped me get the abscess cleaned and drained and gave me some medication to recover at home. So far, I have been feeling much better and he did a great job so there was no scars or major pain.
Thank you Dr Ganesh.
I had severe food poisoning which resulted in a split in the skin near my buttocks. I was so shocked when I saw blood in the toilet thinking it was some terminal illness. Thankfully, after seeing Dr Ganesh, he diagnosed that I have an anal fissure and it can be treated quite easily.
I followed his advice to clean and improve my diet and within 2 weeks, I have fully recovered. Thank you Dr Ganesh!
Dr Ganesh is a trustworthy and caring doctor. I was hesitant at first to be seen as I noticed there was swelling and pus near my anus and wasn’t sure what to do. When I finally had to see a doctor, I found him online and I can see why people say he is friendly and patient. He managed to explain how I can get my condition treated without being difficult to understand. I followed his advice and got him to treat me, it was surprisingly not as painful as imagined and he got the pus drained. Thank you to Nurse Jiaxin for helping to clean my wound as well.
Truly a great team and clinic!
I had a great experience with G&L Clinic. Dr Ganesh is professional and detailed in explaining to me about my condition, anal fistula. Apparently I had it without knowing until the pain was unbearable.
Because it was much more serious, I had to undergo a minor surgery for it. But following his advice, I am able to recover ahead of the time and am already back at work.
Thank you to Dr Ganesh, Lisa, Jiaxin, Ann and Angeline for being a wonderful, efficient team!
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Dr. Ganesh Ramalingam
Specialist in General Surgery
As a strong proponent of treating the patient holistically instead of just their condition, Dr Ganesh Ramalingam advises patients as to how they can manage their daily habits and diets to lead healthier lifestyles. As a consultant with G&L Surgical Clinic specialising in General Surgery, he sees many patients with conditions related to the stomach and is skilled in bariatric surgery, upper GI and hernia surgery, advanced laparoscopic surgery, endoscopies, and trauma.
G&L Surgical Clinic will do our best to provide you with an estimate of your out-of-pocket expenses before your procedure. With a comprehensive financing service, we endeavour to assist you in finding the most suitable financing option to enjoy a seamless and pleasant experience. Please do not hesitate to contact us with any questions. We are here to help you get the care you need.