Category Archives: Anal fistula

Try These 8 Tips to Relieve Constipation | Minnesota

Constipation is one of the most common bowel disorders affecting American adults, with roughly 20 percent of the population suffering from hard, painful stools. Defined as having fewer than three bowel movements per week for several weeks, constipation occurs when the colon absorbs too much water from the food passing through it, creating dry stool that’s extremely difficult to pass.

While constipation is never pleasant, there are a few ways to manage and improve symptoms so that other complications—like hemorrhoids—don’t set in. Below are a few tips for boosting your bowel movements:
 
1. Eat more apples – This juicy fruit is packed with pectin fibre, which has been found to help relieve constipation and slow down the absorption of excess dietary fats, making you feel fuller for longer. The sorbitol in apple juice also has a laxative effect.

2. Eat more raisins and figs – If apples aren’t your thing, perhaps these two dried fruits can be added to your diet. High in fiber, raisins and figs are even more beneficial to your digestive system when soaked in water.

3. Exercise more – Being more active is always beneficial to your health! Hitting the gym or simply going for a jog outside helps aid food breakdown and reduce the time it takes food to move through the large intestine. The less time food sits in your colon, the more water it retains to help ease stool passage later.
 
 
4. Hydrate – Retaining water in your stool is the key takeaway here, so drinking more fluids is critical. When you don’t drink enough water, your body absorbs more water from the food you eat in order to make up for the imbalance.

5. Try over-the-counter medications – For a quicker fix, laxatives (used in moderation) can help with constipation. These substances work to loosen your stools and increase bowel movements pretty quickly.

6. Don’t hold your poop – If you feel even the slightest urge, go to the bathroom! Holding your bowel movements causes stools to sit longer in the colon, increasing the amount of water absorbed. Definitely not what we want!

7. Drink some coffee – Despite being a diuretic that can dehydrate you if consumed in large quantities, coffee has been shown to stimulate the muscles in your digestive system. Small amounts of soluble fiber in coffee can also boost the balance of your gut bacteria.

8. Try probiotics – Studies have shown that Bifidobacterium, a bacteria of the gastrointestinal tract, can aid in digestion and reducing constipation. Yogurt, fermented vegetables (kimchi, miso, sauerkraut), cured meats, vinegar and sourdough bread are good options for increasing your probiotics intake.

 

Comparing Anal Abscesses and Anal Fistulas | Minnesota

Hemorrhoids, abscesses, fistulas, fissures, anal itching, rectal prolapse—with so many anorectal disorders out there, it’s hard to keep track of which is which. Two of these conditions, anal abscesses and anal fistulas, are closely linked to one another but can be easily distinguished via the guidelines below.
 

Defining Each Disorder

Anal Abscess – This is a pus-filled, infected cavity near the opening of the anus or deep in the rectum. Most abscesses result from infection of anal glands in the lining of the anal canal near the anus opening. When bacteria from the gut passes the anal sphincter barrier and into the surrounding tissue of the rectum, an abscess of varying severity and depth forms. When an abscess fails to fully heal, an anal fistula may form.

Anal Fistula – As mentioned above, fistulas usually occur due to a previous anal abscess. A fistula is an inflamed tunnel under the skin, connecting the anal canal and the surface of the surrounding skin. The majority result from an anorectal infection, wherein the anal crypts are infected and cause pus-filled cysts to form near the anal canal.
 

Symptoms

Anal Abscess – The most common symptoms are pain around the anal area, swelling, redness, and fever. Rectal bleeding and urinary complications (difficult or painful urination) may also occur.

Anal Fistula – In addition to most likely having a history of anal abscesses, patients may also experience skin irritation around the anus, a throbbing pain when sitting, anal discharge, swelling and redness, and fever.

 

Causes

Anal Abscess – This usually occurs from infection of anal glands in the lining of the anal canal near the anus opening. Other causes include an anal fissure and sexually transmitted infections (STIs).

Anal Fistula – As previously mentioned, fistulas typically result from an abscess that did not fully heal. They may also, though less frequently, be caused by Crohn’s disease, STDs, trauma, tuberculosis, cancer or diverticulitis.
 

Treatments

Anal Abscess – Surgical incision and drainage should be performed ASAP, as antibiotics are ineffective at this stage of the infection. Delaying surgery can result in tissue destruction, fibrosis (scar tissue formation), and impaired anal continence. Drainage involves making a small incision above the abscess as close to the anus as possible, then removing the gauze after 24 hours. Sitz baths and stool softeners can help with post-surgery discomfort.

Anal Fistula – Surgery is generally needed to treat fistulas and involves cutting a small part of the anal sphincter muscle away. By doing so, the tunnel/fistula is opened up to form a trench that heals from the bottom outwards. After a few weeks, the trench ideally fills up with scar tissue and heals. Post-surgery discomfort is mild and can usually be addressed with painkillers.
 

Recurrence Rates

Anal Abscess – Nearly half of abscesses may recur, either in the form of a new abscess or as a frank fistula.

Anal Fistula – Fistulas can also potentially recur, with recurrence rates dependent upon the particular surgical technique utilized.

 

10 Reasons For Rectal Bleeding That Aren’t Hemorrhoids | Minnesota

Bleeding from your rectum or anus is never a pleasant experience, and it can understandably cause immediate panic. Generally, bright red blood indicates bleeding in the lower rectum, while dark red blood indicates bleeding from deeper and further up in the body. While passing dark red blood is usually a sign of digestive bleeding and requires immediate attention, any amount of rectal bleeding should be taken seriously.

While rectal bleeding can be caused by pesky hemorrhoids, there are a number of other potential causes ranging from fistulas and fissures to more serious cases of colon/bowel cancer.
 
1. Anal Fistula
An anal fistula is an inflammatory tunnel under the skin connecting the anal canal and the surface of the surrounding skin. Most fistulas occur from an anorectal infection, where the anal crypts are infected and cysts containing pus form near the anal canal. Fistulas are often misdiagnosed as hemorrhoids, as symptoms can be similar, including drainage from the anus, itchiness and pain during bowel movements. They can be treated with antibiotics, pain meds and a fistulotomy.

2. Anal Fissure
An anal fissure is a small rip or tear in the lining of the anal cana typically caused by trauma to the inner lining of the anus via a bowel movement or stretching of the anal canal. They can be painful, but fissures often heal within a few weeks through increasing fiber/fluid intake to keep stool soft and help ease bowel movements.

3. Colon Cancer
As scary as it may sound, rectal bleeding is a dangerous sign of colon cancer and must be taken very seriously. Symptoms of colorectal cancer include abdominal pain, a change in bowel habits, an anal or rectal lump, and bleeding during bowel movements. Click here to read our post on the differences between rectal cancer and hemorrhoids.

4. Gastroenteritis
Gastroenteritis, otherwise known as the stomach flu, is a common bacterial infection that causes diarrhea, fever and vomiting. Due to inflammation in the stomach and colon, the bowel becomes more sensitive during the illness and may cause bloody stools. While the process is uncomfortable, gastroenteritis normally clears up after a few days of rest and hydration.

5. Diverticulosis
Diverticulosis is a chronic bowel condition that causes small bulges or pockets to develop in the lining of the intestine/digestive tract. If these bulges become inflamed or infected, abdominal pain, bloating, constipation, diarrhea, and bloody stools can occur. More common in people over 40, diverticulosis can be treated using diet modifications, antibiotics and, if needed, surgery.

6. Rectal Prolapse
Believe it or not, a bit of your intestine can actually slip outside of your body. A rectal prolapse occurs when part of the large intestine slips outside the anus, which can happen during a bowel movement. This in turn causes pain and bright red blood in the stool, as well as difficulty in controlling your bowel movements. A prolapse usually requires surgical treatment, so call your doctor right away.

7. Polyps
Polyps are non-cancerous growths that can develop along the lining of your bowel. They’re pretty common and don’t usually manifest symptoms. In more severe cases, they can cause diarrhea, constipation, mucus in the stool and bloody stools. While most polyps do not escalate into cancer, there is still risk of cancer development. Be sure to call your doctor for a full examination.

8. Internal Bleeding
As mentioned earlier, darker colored blood can be a sign of internal bleeding in your digestive system. It can also be a sign of cancer, stomach ulcers or severe gastrointestinal disease. If you see dark red blood in your stool call your doctor ASAP.

9. Colitis
Colitis is a chronic inflammation of the innermost lining of the large intestine and rectum. Small ulcers develop in the lining of the bowel, which then bleed and produce pus. This causes recurring diarrhea, abdominal pain, rectal bleeding, and the frequent urge to pass stools. Management of colitis conditions can include antibiotics, medications and surgery.

10. Sexually Transmitted Infection (STI)
Sexually transmitted infections (STI) can result from unprotected anal sex and cause inflammation of the lining of the anus, which can lead to bleeding and pus. Treatment includes antibiotics and antiviral/antifungal medications.

 

Anal Fistula & Hemorrhoids | Minnesota

An anal fistula is an inflammatory tunnel under the skin, connecting the anal canal and the surface of the surrounding skin. 80% occur as a result of an anorectal infection, wherein the anal crypts are infected and cysts containing pus form near the anal canal. If the abscess breaks or is opened a fistula is often formed.

Symptoms of an anal fistula can be similar to those of hemorrhoids, manifesting as drainage from the anus, itchiness, and constant, throbbing pain, and is exacerbated by bowel movement. An anal fistula is commonly mistaken for a hemorrhoid upon first notice; however it eventually has episodes of recurrent infection. They are two very different issues that are important to distinguish. The patients with anal fistula usually have the history of anal abscess and recurrent fistula infection.

In the complex cases advanced diagnostic methods may be necessary.

1. Fistula probe, a thin metal instrument specially designed to be inserted through a fistula.
2. Anoscope, a small tube used to view the anal canal
3. Flexible sigmoidoscopy
4. An injected dye solution into fistula.
5. Imagine tests with endoscopic ultrasound and MRI
6. Fistulography with X-ray of the fistula after a contrast solution is injected.

Treatment varies depending on the severity and location of the fistula. Antibiotics, antipyretics and, pain medication is prescribed if there is drainage (indicating abscess). For simple rectal abscesses, antibiotics are usually not needed. The surgical procedure for simple fistulas are called a fistulotomy, where the fistula tract is cleared out surgically and allowed to heal properly. For simple fistulas, success rate with fistulotomy is over 90%. More complex fistulas may be to twisted or branching for a fistulotomy so fibrin glue or fibrin plug may be used instead. Fibrin glue is largely out of favor now due to its low success rates. The fistula is filled with this glue, which hardens and then dissolves, allowing scar tissue to form and the fistula to heal. Fibrin plug is a similar concept, but it is not a liquid. Like the glue, it dissolves, allowing growth of scarr tissue. Fibrin treatment has the advantage of not causing incontinence, which can be a risk of fistulotomy. Though in common, staged surgery may be needed.

With this condition, it is better to seek help sooner than later. Advanced abscesses that become complex are much more difficult to treat. For most however, it seems procrastination is not much of a problem- pain is a very effective motivator.

Dr. Shu manages the simple or superficial anal fistula with fistulotomy or fistulectomy, and he usually refers the patients with complex anal fistula to the colorectal specialist for further evaluation and treatment.

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