Irritation in or, more commonly, around the anus
Anal itching (pruritus ani) is rarely a serious condition, although it may be embarrassing and hard to treat. Itching may be either localized around the anus or part of a generalized itching disorder (see Itching). It may be worse in older people because their skin is drier, less elastic, and more easily irritated.
Localized anal itching may be caused by poor personal hygiene, haemorrhoids, or threadworm infestation. Generalized itching around the anal area may be a symptom of a skin disease, such as psoriasis or eczema, or be due to an allergic reaction to a substance such as detergent or soap.
There are several measures you can take to relieve anal itching. It is important to keep the anal area clean by washing and drying carefully after a bowel movement. Avoid using soaps that irritate the skin, and try not to scratch because it will worsen the itching. A warm bath or shower before bed may soothe night-time itching. Loose underclothes made of natural fibres are less likely than synthetic materials to cause irritation. An over-the-counter cream containing a topical corticosteroid may give relief. Itching that lasts for longer than 3 days should be assessed by a doctor.
Your doctor may examine your anus and arrange for tests to look for causes that require treatment. For example, haemorrhoids may need to be removed.
From the 2010 revision of the Complete Home Medical Guide © Dorling Kindersley Limited.