The anal canal makes up the last inch and a half of your bowel. There are a number of common problems that can occur in this area, where your digestive system leaves your body. These issues can cause pain and discomfort that sometimes need to be addressed surgically.

Overview of anal fissure, perianal abscess, and anal fistula

Three common and painful conditions that can affect the anus are an anal fissure, perianal abscess, and anal fistula.

Anal fissures are small tears in the lining of the anus. They can be extremely painful during and immediately after defecation because of how the muscle ring around the anus expands.

Abscesses are localized pockets of pus that are caused by bacterial infections. These can occur in any part of the body. Bacteria invade the tissue around the anal canal and an abscess results.

Fistulas can occur as a result of an abscess or can occur on their own. These are tiny channels or tracts that develop when infection and inflammation are present. Most often, they run from the rectum to an opening in the skin nearby. In women, they can open into the vagina or bladder.

More about anal fissure

Anal fissures can occur after a hard, dry bowel movement like that caused by constipation. They can also be caused by bouts of diarrhea because of the irritation and inflammation this condition can cause.

Anal fissures are typically diagnosed with a visual examination of the anus and the tissue around it. The area will be tender and painful during the exam.

More about perianal abscess

Perianal abscesses are more common in people who have underlying conditions that include Crohn's disease, AIDS, and cancer.

They cause an area with pain, tenderness, and swelling. People may also experience chills, a fever and weakness or fatigue. These symptoms will go away once the abscess is drained. Abscesses must be surgically opened to drain them. Some simple abscess removals can be performed in a physician's office with the aid of local anesthesia. Patients who have large or deep abscesses, however, may need to have them treated in a hospital or surgical center.

More about anal fistula

Anal fistulas often occur together with anal abscesses. There is usually some drainage from a fistula because they are infected channels. Draining fistulas often cause no pain. However, the skin around a fistula can become irritated. If the opening of a fistula closes before the fistula has properly healed, the result can be an abscess.

Perianal abscess, anal fistula, and anal fissure treatment

Anal fissures often heal on their own, but sometimes need surgery to close if they do not heal quickly enough.

With a fistula, the area is opened so that it can heal from the inside out. A course of antibiotics rarely heals the infection. With both abscesses and fistulas, surgical drains may be used to remove draining pus and help the area heal.

Pain, bleeding, and drainage are possible with a range of illnesses that affect the bowels. It is important to consult a physician for a correct diagnosis. If the diagnosis is a fissure, ointments may be prescribed to aid healing.