What to Do for Anal Pain

Photo © A.D.A.M.

Anal pain can be quite worrisome. And because we have been taught to be embarrassed about symptoms relating to our "private parts", people are often reluctant to discuss the problem with their friends, family members or even their doctors, leaving one quite in the dark as to what the problem might be. This article covers the symptoms of the most common causes of anal pain, lists the health conditions that entail anal pain, will provide you direction regarding whether or not to see your doctor, and offer you some tips for self-care.

There are a lot of nerve endings in the area of the rectum and anus, so therefore any problems in the area can range from uncomfortable to excruciatingly painful. Most of the time, however, the causes of anal pain are benign -- even if there is bleeding (which can be pretty scary to see). However, if your pain doesn't ease within a few days, it is essential that you see your doctor for a proper diagnosis. Do not let embarrassment prevent you from speaking to your doctor. Your doctor has been trained to deal with medical conditions in all parts of the body.

The Most Common Causes of Anal Pain

The following conditions are the most likely causes of anal pain:

Anal fissure: The pain associated with an anal fissure is typically located at the opening of the anus and is acute and sharp. The pain is experienced during a bowel movement, but may persist over time. You may also experience anal itching as well as see bright red blood on the outside of the stool or on your toilet paper.

Hemorrhoids:  Although some hemorrhoids can cause no symptoms, others can be quite painful.  You would experience a hemorrhoid as a swollen, inflamed vein in the rectum or on the anus.  You may experience itchiness and see bright red blood on the stool or your toilet paper.  A thrombosed hemorrhoid is an especially painful, (but not necessarily serious), type of hemorrhoid as it involves a blood clot in the vein.


Rectal Tenesmus  Another common cause of anal pain is that associated with tenesmus, a condition in which a person continues to strain to empty an already empty bowel.  Tenesmus typically manifests itself alongside other medical conditions.

Anal pain can also be the result of muscle spasms in the pelvic area. This would manifest itself as a sharp pain that goes away quickly.

Pain on the outside of the anus could be the result of a yeast infection, itchiness associated with a hemorrhoid, or the result of rough cleaning of the skin on the outside of the anus.

Health Conditions Associated with Anal Pain

The following health conditions may cause the symptom of anal pain:

When To See Your Doctor

As stated above, if your pain symptoms do not ease within a few days, make an appointment with your doctor to get an accurate diagnosis.

Seek immediate medical care if you experience:

  • Significant rectal bleeding
  • Worsening pain, accompanied by high fever

For a full list of symptoms requiring emergency care, see:

Self-Care of Your Anus

Be kind to your anus. Here are some things to keep in mind:

1. Remember to always wash it gently with warm water - avoid soap. Gently pat it dry.

2. Wear underwear that breathes, e.g. cotton or that made with moisture-wicking fiber.

3. Do not use any creams other than those prescribed by your doctor.

4. If necessary, you may find pain relief by taking an over-the-counter pain reliever.

5. If your anal pain is caused by an anal fissure or a hemorrhoid, start taking regular sitz baths. Soaking the anus in hot water will both soothe and treat the underlying cause.

6. If you engage in anal intercourse, always use a condom. Otherwise, never insert any foreign objects into your rectum!


"Anal Pain" American Society of Colon & Rectal Surgeons website Accessed October 2, 2013.

"Anal Disorders " Medline Plus Accessed October 2, 2013.

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