What is an anal abscess?

An anal abscess is a pus-filled lump around the anus. It happens when a gland inside the anus gets infected.

What is an anal fistula?

An anal fistula is a tunnel that forms between the anal gland and the skin. It is usually the result of anal abscess.

What are the symptoms of an anal abscess?

The symptoms of an anal abscess include:

  1. Severe, constant pain in the anal area
  2. Fever
  3. Feeling sick and tired

What are the symptoms of an anal fistula?

The symptoms of an anal fistula can be the same as an anal abscess. But the pain is not as bad and might happen only once in a while. Other symptoms can include:

  1. Red, itchy skin near the anus
  2. Pus draining from the skin around the anus

Are there tests for anal abscesses or fistulas?

Yes. To check for an anal abscess or a fistula, your doctor or nurse will look at your anus and do a “digital rectal exam.” During a digital rectal exam, your doctor or nurse will put a gloved finger into your anus and rectum to feel for lumps or anything abnormal.

They might also order an “imaging test,” such as an MRI or a CT scan. Imaging tests create pictures of the inside of the body.

Should I see a doctor or nurse?

Yes. It’s important to see your doctor so they can treat you as soon as possible. Waiting too long to get treatment can lead to problems.

How is an anal abscess treated?

To treat an abscess, your doctor will cut a small hole in the skin to drain out the pus. Often, this needs to be done in an operating room.

How is an anal fistula treated?

There are many ways to treat a fistula. If it is shallow, the doctor will usually cut open the skin so the fistula can heal.

For a deep fistula, doctors might need to do more than one procedure:

  1. First, they will remove the pus and insert a special thread called a “seton.” The thread usually stays in for 6 weeks or longer. It can help relieve symptoms and mark the fistula for doctors to fix later. While the thread is in place, it will not hurt or affect your bowel movements.
  2. For the second procedure, the doctor will fix the fistula. There are several different ways they can do this, depending on the type of fistula. It might involve tying off the fistula, sealing off the inside fistula opening, or using special glue or a plug to fill in the fistula.