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What is Perianal Dermatitis?

By Maggie Worth
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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Perianal dermatitis is a medical condition that describes an irritation of the skin around the anus. Common symptoms can include redness, pain, itching, and swelling. More severe cases may result in lesions or blisters. The condition is usually caused by contact with an irritant, and can often be treated with a topical ointment.

Babies are especially susceptible to perianal dermatitis. This occurs when wet or soiled diapers are not changed promptly or when the child's skin is not cleaned properly during a diaper-change. In this case, the condition is commonly known as diaper rash. Over-the-counter ointments and creams are available both to help prevent the condition and to treat it.

While infants are the most common sufferers, people of any age can experience dermatitis in this area. Those who are bedridden and unable to care for themselves often wear adult diapers, and experience the same issues as diapered infants. The condition can develop even when proper care is received, simply from the natural heat and moisture present in that area of the body, particularly if the individual sweats or does not wear underclothing that allows for adequate ventilation. Athletes often wear special undergarments and use preventative treatments so that the condition does not develop.

Not all instances of perianal dermatitis are related to diapers and underclothing. It can be caused by an allergic reaction to soap, bath oils, toilet paper, or even laundry detergent. It can also evolve as a secondary condition to upsets of the digestive system that result in diarrhea or as a result of high levels of alkalinity in a person's waste. It is also a common condition in pregnant women and those that suffer from hemorrhoids or inflammatory bowel disease.

People who spend a lot of time sitting, especially on something that moves, are also prone to the condition. This includes cyclists, motorcycle riders, and those that regularly ride horses. People employed in certain professions, particularly long-haul trucking, often experience persistent perianal dermatitis.

There are a number of variations of the condition. Perianal streptococcal dermatitis is caused by group-A strep, a variant of the streptococcus bacteria that cause strep throat. Perianal atopic dermatitis is eczema that presents in the anal region. Perianal candidal dermatitis is a yeast infection that affects the anal region.

Numerous over-the-counter remedies are available to treat and prevent perianal dermatitis. A persistent or severe case may require a visit to the doctor and a prescription ointment. Persons suffering from the condition should remember that, while it may be uncomfortable to discuss with a doctor, it is a medical condition that requires treatment and can become serious if left untreated.

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Discussion Comments
By literally45 — On Aug 31, 2013

I developed perianal dermatitis all of the sudden last month. After trying several different treatments, I discovered that the culprit was my laundry detergent. I was having an allergic reaction to it. I switched to a hypoallergenic laundry detergent and the dermatitis went away.

By candyquilt — On Aug 30, 2013

@fBoyle-- There are some very effective over-the-counter topical creams for diaper rash you can try. Just ask a pharmacist about it.

This might sound weird but there is a type of cream that's also sold at pharmacies now. It's originally a cow udder cream but it's a multi-purpose product and good for lots of things including dermatitis treatment. It relives rashes and itching, moisturizes and soothes.

Another good remedy is good old lard. Lard along with corn starch is what our grandparents used to use for diaper rashes. Lard is soothing and moisturizing and corn starch absorbs excess moisture and prevents more rashes from developing.

By fBoyle — On Aug 30, 2013

What's the best remedy for a diaper rash around the anus? My baby has it and I'm not sure how to treat it.

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