June 01, 2019

Are there any self-care tips for anal itching?

Q: I've had anal itching for some time. It's an embarrassing topic that I'm reluctant to bring up with my doctor. Do you have any self-care tips?

A: Anal itching is an intense itching inside and around the opening of the anus. It's potentially embarrassing, but bringing it up with your doctor is recommended. That's because there are a number of possible causes with specific treatments that will likely help with itching. These causes include hemorrhoids, anal fissures, skin diseases, infections, fecal seepage and ongoing diarrhea. At the most serious end of the spectrum, cancer can occasionally be a cause of these symptoms.

Less serious causes may include dry skin, irritation from wiping too hard and too often, use of soaps or frequent cleaning of the area, and excess moisture due to sweating.

When no specific cause of anal itching is found, self-care steps are successful in eliminating itching about 90% of the time. Steps include:

  • After bowel movements, gently clean the area with water and a mild, fragrance-free soap. This may involve a quick shower or using a soft washcloth or squeeze bottle. Avoid scrubbing or using moist towelettes or wipes, abrasive cloths, or moist toilet paper.
  • Pat the area dry with a cloth, or dry with a hair dryer on the fan-only setting. Using the heat setting could cause even more irritation to this delicate area.
  • Wear nonconstricting cotton underwear to keep the area cool and dry.
  • Apply zinc oxide or petroleum jelly to the anal area to provide a moisture barrier. If necessary, a cream of 1% hydrocortisone applied two to...