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Anorectal Disorders

Anorectal disorders are conditions that affect the anus and rectum area. Common anal and rectal disorders include hemorrhoids, anal fissures and anal fistulas. For most people, anorectal disorders are a source of worry and embarrassment as well as causing physical pain and discomfort. Our care team focuses on treatment options that help improve your quality of life while keeping you as comfortable as possible.

What are anorectal disorders?

As food is digested, it passes through the digestive tract. Any waste matter that’s left over is expelled from the body in the form of feces, also called stool. Anal disorders affect the anus, the area where stool is passed. The anus is the end of the digestive tract that connects to the outside of the body. Rectal disorders affect the rectum, the area above the anus where stool is held before being passed from the body.

Types of anorectal disorders

There are many types of anal and rectal disorders, ranging from relatively minor issues such as itching or warts to more significant concerns like pain and incontinence:

  • A cavity in the anus or rectum that becomes infected and filled with pus. Can also lead to anal fissures.

  • Tears or cracks in the anus that result from stretching the anal canal beyond its normal capacity.

  • An opening in the skin near the anus that leads into a blind pouch or may connect through a tunnel with the rectal canal. Most anal fistulas form in reaction to an anal gland that has developed an abscess.

  • Red and swollen veins or blood vessels in the lower rectum. Hemorrhoids can be internal or external.

  • Also known as bowel incontinence, fecal incontinence is the lack of control over bowel movements.

  • Diagnosed when the rectum falls from its normal position and partially exits the anus. A prolapsed rectum can lead to fecal incontinence.

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Anorectal disorders symptoms and risks

The symptoms associated with anal or rectal disorders will vary depending on the specific type of disorder you’re experiencing. Some possible indications of an anorectal disorder include:

  • A visible crack in the skin of the anus
  • Bleeding after bowel movements, with or without pain
  • Diarrhea or constipation
  • Gas and bloating
  • Itching or burning in the anal area
  • Lumps or swelling within and around the anal area
  • Pain during or after a bowel movement
  • Pain or discomfort in the anal area
  • Rectal bleeding or discharge

Some anal and rectal disorders are caused by environmental factors, such as diet and lifestyle. For example, sitting for long periods can be a risk factor for developing hemorrhoids. Other anorectal disorders can occur in combination with a primary health concern, such as inflammatory bowel disease. In some cases, certain medications and treatments can increase the risk of anorectal disorders.

Anorectal disorders diagnosis and screening

The process of diagnosing an anal or rectal disorder typically includes a number of different screening tests:

  • Physical examination and medical history
  • Digital rectal exam
  • Colonoscopy
  • Additional imaging tests, such as an ultrasound or MRI

Anorectal disorders treatment

Treatment for an anal or rectal disorder varies depending on the specific diagnosis. Your doctor may recommend one or multiple treatment approaches, including adjustments in your lifestyle habits:

  • Adding a fiber supplement to your diet
  • Applying topical ointments or creams
  • Avoiding sitting for long periods
  • BOTOX injections
  • Drinking more water
  • Increasing your fiber intake by eating more fruits and vegetables
  • Increasing your level of physical activity
  • Taking over-the-counter medications, such as a stool softener
  • Taking sitz baths, especially after a bowel movement

In some cases, your doctor may recommend colorectal surgery for anorectal disorders that are more pronounced, or that haven’t responded to other treatments.

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