Anal Fistula

What A Pain!

When the body is dealing with ridding itself of an abscess, sometimes abnormal passageways or tunnels are created connecting glands and skin or one surface in the body to another.  These tunnels or tracts are called fistula and they can appear at different parts of the body.  Some of the different types are umbilical, urethral, perineal, thyroglossal, salivary and arteriovenous.  The most common and bothersome of all fistula is the anal fistula.  As a rule, the opening of the fistula is found to be indrawn and has a covering of folded skin.

The anus, which is the final exit of waste from the body and the surrounding area, has the best breeding ground for bacteria and fungus because of the high level of moisture and folded skin.  No matter how clean, there is always a larger concentration of germs in that area.  Most commonly, infections and boils occur as a result of inadequate hygiene yet there are times when the source of the boil or abscess remains a mystery.

How Did That Get There?

Anal abscesses and fistulas happen most in hair follicles or glands in the skin.  The infected pore or gland erupts and results in an abscess.  Generally, the abscess opens, drains and heals but not before the area is red hot and pounding with pain.  The abscess fills to bursting, opens and lets the pus out in a natural fashion.  Should it not drain properly, be excessively deep or become chronic, and then it recreates itself as a small hole or single opening.  If it opens at both ends and becomes a tunnel it is then called a fistula.  While poorly treated infections and abscesses account for most fistulas, unhygienic conditions, poor cleanliness habits, and foreign bodies can also be implicated.  One cause that isn't often taken into account is underwear made of fabrics that do not absorb moisture, such as nylon.  The most prominent factor causing aggravation to the situation is physical strain caused by difficulty in passing stool.

Some Other Contributors

There are certain diseases and conditions which may predispose an individual to anal fistula.  Inflammatory bowel disease, or IBD, such as colitis, Crohn's Disease or diverticulitis may increase incidence of anal abscesses and fistulas.  Also, people with increased immune deficiencies causing diseases such as HIV/AIDS or cancer are also at higher risk for fistulas. 

An examining physician can diagnose anal fistula easily and prescribe the correct treatment to deal with this uncomfortable situation.