Though often confused with hemorrhoids, an anal fissure is a tear in the sensitive tissue that lines the anus. In most cases, anal fissures heal with conservative care.
However, ignoring the warning signs of an anal fissure may prolong the healing process or turn your acute problem into a chronic condition.
At Midwest Hemorrhoid Treatment Center in Creve Coeur, Missouri, we specialize in diagnosing and treating rectal disorders like anal fissures. Our board-certified family physician, Dr. Betsy Clemens, offers effective treatments to heal the tear and alleviate symptoms.
In this blog, we want to share some of the warning signs of anal fissures so you can get the help you need sooner rather than later.
About anal fissures
Anal fissures are common and affect people of all ages. They occur when the anal tissue stretches beyond its limit, creating the tiny tear — or crack. Overstretching usually occurs when passing large, dry, hard stool.
The pain from the tear triggers the anal sphincter muscles to spasm and tighten, cutting off blood supply that may delay healing of the tear. This cycle of pain, muscle spasms, and lack of blood flow then occurs with every bowel movement. Treatment for an anal fissure centers around disrupting this pattern so the tear can heal.
With early diagnosis and treatment, most anal fissures heal within eight weeks. However, if you ignore the warning signs and put off getting the care you need, you may end up in a cycle that ultimately leads to a chronic anal fissure.
Warning signs of anal fissures
The most common warning sign of an anal fissure is severe pain during a bowel movement. The pain may last at that level for a few minutes or a few hours after your trip to the bathroom.
Other signs of an anal fissure include:
- Blood in stool
- Visible tear
- Burning or itching sensation
- Discomfort when urinating
The severe pain you feel during and after a bowel movement may make you fearful of going. But holding stool in increases your risk of constipation and passing hard dry stools that may cause further damage — a Catch-22.
Healing your anal fissure
Most anal fissures heal on their own with conservative treatments. For our patients, treatment focuses on softening stools and preventing constipation. In addition to recommending a stool softener, we also encourage drinking plenty of water and adding fiber-rich foods to your diet.
Soaking in warm water — a sitz bath — for 10 to 20 minutes several times a day may help relax your anal sphincter, prevent the muscle spasms, and promote healing of the tear.
If your anal fissure fails to heal within eight weeks, we may recommend more aggressive treatment such as surgery to stop the muscle spasms, thereby allowing the tear to heal.
Ignoring the warning signs of a rectal disorder like anal fissures won’t make them go away. Let us help. Call our office at 636-228-3136 to schedule your consultation with Dr. Clemens, or book online today.