Are You at Risk for a Rectal Abscess?

Why You Shouldn't Ignore Your Pain

woman about to sit on a cactus
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While a painful pocket of pus in your anus is probably the last thing you want to think about, if you're having a lot of pain and swelling, it's important to understand the cause and seek medical help. Even if it isn't something affecting you right now, understanding the symptoms, causes, risk factors and treatment for a rectal abscess could help you down the line.

Causes of a Rectal Abscess

A rectal abscess, also known as an abscess or fistula, is caused by a bacterial infection.

As the body attempts to combat the bacteria, white blood cells and bodily fluids collect, forming pus. When this pus collects in one spot in your anus or rectum, it's called an abscess. Rectal abscesses can form near the anal opening, or exist much higher up in the rectum.

Signs and Symptoms of a Rectal Abscess

Rectal abscesses are very painful. If you're experiencing painful hard swelling in the anus, red swelling, pus discharging from the swollen area, temperature and fever or pain with bowel movements, get medical help right away.

Risk Factors for Rectal Abscesses

While anyone can develop a rectal abscess, some people are at a higher risk than others:

  • People with inflammatory bowel disease, such as Crohn's disease
  • People who have regular anal sex
  • People with diabetes
  • People with a weakened immune system, including people with HIV, those on certain types of medications, the elderly and the very young
  • Those who have had a bone marrow transplant

If any of these apply to you, talk to your doctor to learn about how you can minimize your risk of developing a rectal abscess.

Treatments for Rectal Abscesses

Luckily, if you get a rectal abscess there are treatments that can health you and minimize the pain.

These include:

  • Surgical drainage to remove the pus. This procedure may require a general anesthetic if the abscess is located high up in the rectum.
  • Antibiotics. It's necessary to stop the infection before you can heal.
  • Medication for pain relief.
  • Warm baths to assist pain relief and aid drainage of rectal abscess that are lower down in the anal canal.

With patience and treatment, you'll be back to feeling like yourself in no time. 

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