Treating Anal Fistulas

Perhaps your primary care doctor suspects you have an anal fistula and has referred you to a specialist. Or maybe you are displaying common symptoms of an anal fistula. You may be anxiously waiting to hear more about the diagnosis and its treatment.  And it’s likely you don’t have a detailed idea of what an anal fistula is. Below, we’ll help you answer some of the many questions you might about anal fistulas, including how they are diagnosed, the preferred treatment, and more.

What is an anal fistula?

An anal fistula refers to a small and hollow tunnel or cavity that runs from inside the hole your body uses to get rid of solid waste (the anus) to somewhere in the skin around it.  

What causes anal fistulas?

Your anus is comprised of a series of glands. If one of your glands becomes blocked, something called an abscess may form. An abscess is an infected gland, which usually contains pus. If the infection doesn’t heal, around half of these infected glands becomes an anal fistula. 

What are the symptoms of an anal fistula?

It’s important to contact your doctor if you suspect you have any of the symptoms that may indicate an anal fistula. These may be symptoms or signs of an anal fistula:

  • Persistent anal abscesses

  • Swelling or pain around the anus

  • Pain during bowel movements.

  • Bleeding

  • Pus draining from an opening around the anus

  • Skin irritation around the anus

How are anal fistulas diagnosed?

Your doctor or specialist can usually diagnose an anal fistula through an examination of the anus and the area surrounding it. Sometimes, when an anal fistula is not visible, your doctor will need to use a tool to see inside your anus and rectum. If one is found your doctor may do an additional test to see if you have Crohn’s disease, as nearly a quarter of people with the disease develop anal fistulas.

How are they treated?

More likely than not, your doctor’s preferred anal fistula treatment will be surgery. The surgery to correct an anal fistula is called a fistulotomy. During a fistulotomy, your surgeon will cut the inner opening of the fistula, drain the infected tissue, and stitch the skin back into place, sans fistula tunnel. To correct a more complicated fistula, your surgeon may remove some of the canal.

Your colorectal specialist will make treating your anal fistula as easy and comfortable for you as possible. Call the specialists at Colorectal Clinic of Tampa Bay today!