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What are Anal Fissures?

Mary McMahon
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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Anal fissures are small tears in the membranes of the anus. They usually heal very quickly with home care, although some cases may require more aggressive treatment, and they are relatively common, especially in infants. People who observe the symptoms of anal fissures should make an appointment with a doctor for an evaluation in which the diagnosis can be confirmed. It is important to see a doctor to rule out other conditions with similar symptoms which may necessitate different treatment approaches.

People with this condition usually experience pain while defecating and burning pain can also be associated with urination. Bright spots of blood may appear on toilet paper or in the toilet, and the patient can also experience symptoms like itching, a strong smelling discharge, and general discomfort. It is sometimes possible to see the anal fissure in the mirror or to feel it. Some patients may try to avoid defecation because of the pain.

Causes can include diarrhea and constipation as well as straining to pass large stool. In addition, sometimes childbirth causes trauma to the anus which leads to fissures. If a fissure is allowed to persist untreated, it can be come chronic. Chronic fissures can lead to muscle tears which cause painful spasms and may also be associated with infections and other health problems.

A doctor can often diagnose an anal fissure with a quick physical exam. Treatments can include using stool softeners to make it easier to defecate, cleansing the area with mild soaps, soaking in warm water to ease pain and inflammation, and applying lubricating anti-inflammatory creams to address discomfort. Anal fissures are often curable without surgery, but in rare cases a minor surgery to repair the anal sphincter may be required.

People of all ages can develop anal fissures and this common medical issue is not necessarily the result of anything a patient did or did not do. It is important to receive adequate treatment to avoid complications. A general practitioner can usually provide patients with the diagnosis and treatments they need, and a referral can be provided if a situation is more complicated and needs the attention of a specialist. Patients should not be shy about speaking up when it comes to problems with urination and defecation even though these topics can sometimes feel awkward or embarrassing; doctors have seen it all and can provide treatment without comment or judgment.

The Health Board is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a The Health Board researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments
By anon326743 — On Mar 23, 2013

I have suffered for the past year with three anal fissures. When it starts to heal, then it flares up again.

I'm now changing my diet as I have severe pain for several hours after a bowel movement. It's a case now of only eating foods that are easily passed and hopefully things will improve for good.

My surgeon wants to give me the botox injections, but I'm a little scared of the lack of potential bowel control it can give you, so I'm trying the diet method first.

From now on, my diet will consist of easily digested foods, and then remembering once it's under control to stick to it.

I'm convinced its a lifestyle change that's needed, although I'm healthy and the correct weight. I just need the right foods. Hope it works!

By Sinbad — On Oct 27, 2011

Anal fissures are painful, and embarrassing, but I would recommend anyone who thinks they may have them and can not treat them at home, to see a doctor. This is not something anyone wants to have chronically, or at all.

I was given stool softeners, and topical creme for my affected area. I was also advised to use unscented baby wipes instead of toilet paper, so there would be less chance of friction or tears from wiping too vigorously. After a few weeks, the anal fissures seemed to heal right up, as I did not have anymore pain or blood.

I now do fine without having to use a stool softener, or baby wipes, which saves me some much needed money and a little bit of extra time. I would recommend to be as gentle as possible when passing bowels and wiping, as this can be cause of anal fissures. Also, stool softeners may help you pass your bowels more easily and more comfortably, preventing some anal fissures.

Sometimes, like the article says, anal fissures really can not be prevented and/or have no cause though.

By aLFredo — On Oct 27, 2011

There was a time in my life where I used to pass huge stools daily. At first I didn't think too much of it, but then I noticed blood in the toilet and on my toilet paper. As embarrassed as I was, I made an appointment with my doctor the next day. My regular family doctor sent me to a proctologist, who diagnosed me with anal fissures.

By JessicaLynn — On Oct 26, 2011

@drtroubles - I think the best thing you could do at home for this problem is use stool softeners and eat fiber. I think that the less you have to strain when you go to the bathroom, the quicker your bottom can heal itself.

Anyway, I'm kind of blown away by the fact that these things don't necessarily have a cause. They can just happen! I mean, I know sometimes they're caused by childbirth, which I'm not planning on engaging in anytime soon. But as the article said, they don't always have a definite cause. I hate health issues that you can't avoid by doing the "right" things.

By sunnySkys — On Oct 25, 2011

A friend of mine had a baby awhile back, and she developed these. I feel like I would be embarrassed to go to the doctor for a problem in that area. However, she said that after giving birth she didn't even care. Plus, she was glad to get something to treat the problem.

After reading this article though, I think I will just head to the doctor immediately if I ever develop these symptoms. Since it can become an ongoing problem if you don't treat it, I wouldn't want to take any chances.

By drtroubles — On Oct 25, 2011

Does anyone know of a treatment for anal fissures that doesn't require a trip to the doctor?

For the past week I have been suffering from constipation and the strain has caused me to bleed a little. I am hoping that there are some simple anal fissures remedies I can take care of at home.

The one thing I have done that has helped a little is taking baths in warm salt water. Apparently salt is a great wound cleaner and helps to promote healing. I honestly thought the salt would have hurt, but it actually was soothing. Besides the baths, is there anything else I can do to speed up the healing?

By wander — On Oct 24, 2011

When I was abroad I got an absolutely terrible case of food poisoning and I had the worst case of diarrhea. I was really embarrassed to go talk to a doctor, but once I saw spots of blood on my tissue it scared me into heading in to a clinic. I thought for sure I was dying.

My doctor gave me a quick exam and told me that bleeding anal fissures are quite common with severe diarrhea. He gave me a ton of medication to help with my food poisoning symptoms and a cream for my bottom. To be honest, the treatment for anal fissures isn't so bad. Embarrassment aside, that cream was a god send considering the pain I had trying to go to the bathroom.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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