Pruritus ani is a chronic itching of the skin around the anus. Anal itch is a symptom, not an illness, and it can have many different causes. In most cases, a person with anal itch has no underlying disease of the anus or rectum. Instead, the itchy sensation is merely a sign that the anal skin has been irritated. The skin of the perirectal area is exposed to irritating digestive products in the stool; this may lead to an itchy rash, especially when stools are frequent. Often the rash is worsened by vigorous use of toilet tissue or scrubbing with soap and water.
Anal itch is a very common problem that occurs in up to 45% of people at some time during their lives. While men are affected 2 - 4 times more often than women, both sexes have an increased risk for this problem if they are overweight, perspire heavily or routinely wear tight-fitting underwear.
Anal itching is usually an isolated skin complaint in otherwise healthy people, but in some it's part of a disorder involving other areas of the skin. Whether pruritus ani is an isolated problem or part of another skin disorder, irritation from stools and from cleansing after bowel movements keeps the rash going.
Treatment is intended to reduce irritation of the anal skin. Gentle cleansing after bowel movements is important. Moisten the toilet paper with lukewarm water, as dry toilet paper doesn't cleanse as well as wet and also irritates your skin.
Never use soap on the anal area. Cleansing with plain water, in either the shower or bathtub can be helpful..
Applying topical remedies such as zinc oxide or hydrocortisone ointment (1%) on a regular schedule, or as needed, to help you avoid scratching.
Pruritus ani is frequently stubborn and requires months of local medication and gentle skin care. If the cause is not found, some people need to continue their medication indefinitely, as the itching returns whenever they stop.