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It can be uncomfortable to find that you’re experiencing itchiness around your anal area—one of the most private and difficult-to-talk-about places on your body.
Causes of Anal Itching
An itch around your bottom is uncomfortable and sometimes embarrassing. If you have anal itch, it may be hard to fight the urge to scratch. But scratching will only make the problem worse. Doctors can’t always find a reason for it, but some health problems or habits, or your diet, may trigger it.
If you don’t wipe well after you poop, what’s left behind can cause itching and burning. Gently clean the area with a wet piece of dye-free, unscented toilet paper. Pat dry with a soft cloth or toilet paper. If the area is very irritated, use a hair dryer set on low to dry it. (Be sure to hold the dryer a safe distance away.)
Being ‘Too’ Clean
Wiping too hard can cause itching or make it worse. Don’t use soap, hot water, medicated powders, perfumed sprays, or deodorants, either. They can destroy the oily skin barrier that protects this sensitive area.
If you drink coffee, you may be more likely to have anal itching. That cup of joe may loosen your anal muscles, and that can let stool leak out, triggering itch. Other things that may cause anal irritation or itching include:
- Tea and cola
- Energy drinks and beer
- Chocolate and nuts
- Citrus fruits and tomatoes
- Spicy foods
If yours are tight or made of synthetic fabrics, you might have a moisture problem down below. Switch to well-fitting all-cotton ones. They absorb better. Change them every day or anytime they get damp, like after exercise. Wash them in fragrance-free detergent.
Passing lots of watery ones and wiping often can irritate the area. You also can itch and have pain if you’re constipated. More fluids and fiber in your diet can help keep you regular. If that doesn’t work, talk with your doctor. They may suggest other diet changes or medications to get things back on track.
These are swollen veins in your rectum or anus that can burn and itch. Straining when you poop or pressure during pregnancy can cause them. Sitting in warm water (a sitz bath) for 15 minutes several times a day may help. Try one after you poop. Drink plenty of water daily and get fiber in your diet so stools are softer. Call your doctor if you notice blood or have pain during a bowel movement so they can rule out more serious conditions.
Tiny cuts or sores (fissures) can open up inside your anus and cause pain and itching. You’re more likely to get these if you’re constipated and a hard or large stool tears the lining. Other causes include long-term diarrhea and an inflammatory bowel disease called Crohn’s disease.
This is a small tunnel that connects the anal canal to an opening in the skin near the anus. Fluids can leak out and irritate the skin, which triggers pain and itch. Crohn’s disease, cancer, trauma, and radiation can raise your chances of infections and fistulas. If you think you may have one, see your doctor.
A fungus, like the one that causes most vaginal yeast infections, can also cause anal itching. And certain kinds of bacteria can, too. For example, a staph skin infection can happen almost anywhere, including the area around your anus. And the same kind of bacteria that causes strep throat can trigger a red, itchy rash around the anus. This is more common in kids than adults.
The human papillomavirus (HPV) is a sexually transmitted disease that causes anal warts. They grow inside and around your anus and may spread to your genitals. Itching is a common symptom. If you think you have anal warts, see your doctor. Without treatment, they can grow large and more may show up. Untreated warts can make you more likely to get anal cancer, too.
You may not want to know about this one. It happens when you swallow the eggs of tiny worms. They get in your digestive system through contaminated food and things like bed linens, bathroom fixtures, toys, and sandboxes. It’s more common in children. The itching usually happens at night, when a female worm lays eggs around the anus. You may see them in your underwear or in the toilet after a bowel movement. They look like tiny pieces of white thread. If you or your child has pinworms, your whole family may be treated for them.
A tiny mite nicknamed the “human itch mite” causes this rash. The bugs burrow into the top layers of your skin to feed. People usually get scabies from skin-to-skin contact. It spreads quickly where people spend a lot of time close together, like in day-care centers, dormitories, and nursing homes. Sharing clothes, towels, and bedding can spread it, too. Like pinworms, your doctor may suggest treating the family if one member has it.
If you have this skin condition, it’s possible to get patches of it where the sun doesn’t shine. The skin around your anus may be red but not scaly. It can itch like crazy, and you may have pain during bowel movements, too. Other skin conditions, including eczema and seborrhea, can cause anal itch as well.
You may need them to treat an infection, but some can kill the “good” bacteria that live in your bowels. You need those to keep your gut in natural balance, so diarrhea can be a common side effect. You also may be more likely to get a yeast infection while taking antibiotics. Ask your doctor if eating yogurt or taking a probiotic supplement may help.
Other Health Problems
Conditions that affect your whole body can affect your rear end. These include:
- Type 2 diabetes
- Leukemia and lymphoma
- Kidney failure or liver disease
- Hyperthyroidism (overactive thyroid)
- Anemia (not enough iron in your blood)
- Anxiety and stress
If your bottom is bothering you, and the itch doesn’t go away, see your doctor to find out what’s going on.
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- Thinkstock Photos
American Society of Colon and Rectal Surgeons: “Pruritis Ani Expanded Version,” “Hemorrhoids: Expanded Version,” “Abscess and Fistula,” “Anal Warts.”
Harvard Medical School: “Anal Itch (Pruritus Ani).”
Cleveland Clinic: “Pruritus Ani (Anal Itching),” “7 Best and Worst Home Remedies for Your Hemorrhoids,” “Anal Fistula.”
National Health Services (UK): “Itchy bottom — Causes,” “How to ease an itchy bottom yourself,” “Anal Fissure.”
University of Michigan: “Rectal Problems, ” “Hemorrhoids.”
KidsHealth.org: “Staph Infections,” “Pinworms.”
American Academy of Dermatology: “Scabies.”
U.S. National Library of Medicine: “Scabies.”
National Psoriasis Foundation: “Genital Psoriasis.”
DermNet New Zealand: “Perianal streptococcal dermatitis.”
11 Reasons You Might Have an Itchy Butt—And How To Treat It
Skin conditions, digestive issues, and chronic diseases are all potential culprits for this common and uncomfortable problem.
Amanda MacMillan is a health and science writer and editor. Her work appears across brands like Health, Prevention, SELF, O Magazine, Travel + Leisure, Time Out New York, and National Geographic’s The Green Guide.
Updated on March 3, 2023
Medically reviewed by
William Truswell, MD, FACS, operates his own cosmetic and reconstructive facial surgery practice. Dr. Truswell was the first in his area in Western Massachusetts to have an accredited private office surgical suite.
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It can be uncomfortable to find that you’re experiencing itchiness around your anal area—one of the most private and difficult-to-talk-about places on your body.
However, anal itchiness is a common problem: It’s known as pruritus ani, the technical term for irritation around the anus that causes the desire to scratch.
If you’re experiencing an itchy butt, the first thing to know is that it’s most likely a symptom of another issue—not a disease or condition in itself. And because itching can lead to scratching, tiny cuts, pain, and swelling, it’s important to know what’s causing the itching to happen.
Specifically, anal itching may occur due to a number of other conditions, such as:
- Skin conditions
- Food and clothing irritants
- Chronic health conditions
Here is more information about these and other common causes of an itchy butt and how you can find relief.
Itching in the perianal region (around the anus) often depends on how you wipe after a bowel movement. Not wiping well enough can leave behind fecal matter and moisture, Brian Kim, MD, Vice Chair of Research at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, told Health.
On the other hand, too much wiping—or the wrong kind of wiping—can also lead to irritation and itching. You don’t want to be too vigorous. Go gentle on this sensitive area.
Unscented toilet paper moistened with warm water works well when wiping after a bowel movement in general. If you have an itchy butt, avoid washing with soap, especially scented soaps. Warm water alone does the trick. Make sure to dry the area by lightly patting it with a towel.
Some Skin Conditions
Chronic skin conditions can cause inflammation and itching anywhere, including the perianal region.
Psoriasis causes itchy red patches and silvery, flaky scales to form on the skin. It accounts for about 5% to 8% of anal itching cases.
Psoriasis can’t be cured, but there are ways to help keep it under control. For example, a dermatologist can prescribe a brief course of topical steroids and long-term doses of other topical medications.
Anal Eczema and Contact Dermatitis
Anal eczema is an inflammatory disease that can be treated with steroids or other anti-itch ointments or creams. Anal eczema is likely to have an underlying or secondary disease. Since the skin on the butt is more sensitive, the pain and itchiness can be more severe than other kinds of eczema.
Allergies can also trigger eczema-like rashes, said Dr. Kim. You may, for example, be allergic to the laundry detergent you use to wash your clothes.
“If itching starts suddenly out of the blue, one of the first things you should ask is whether you could be using or wearing something that’s causing irritation in that area,” added Dr. Kim.
Causes of contact dermatitis include soaps, detergents, perfumes, latex, fragrances, dyes, preservatives, nickel, cobalt, and certain foods. Moist wipes, condoms, and lubricants may contain these substances.
Lichen sclerosus is another condition that can cause anal irritation. This relatively rare condition causes white, wrinkled skin changes in the genital region, including the perianal region. People with female genitalia are more likely to be affected.
As for treatment, lichen sclerosus typically responds to a three-month course of topical steroids. If left untreated, these lesions can progress into skin cancer. Screening can help detect cancers early and is important in people with lichen sclerosus.
Anal itching is sometimes associated with tight clothing or materials that don’t breathe well. “We know that sweat can cause irritation anywhere on the body with prolonged exposure, and in this area especially, it can cause a lot of itching or even a yeast infection,” said Dr. Kim.
Tight-fitting clothing can make you more prone to infections, including those that cause anal itching. Clothes worn tight on the body can increase sweating, and sweaty environments are a great place for germs that can cause anal itching to thrive.
Friction from clothing can also cause hair follicles to get inflamed and infected—a condition called folliculitis. Folliculitis looks like tiny red bumps or pimples on your skin. Folliculitis can occur all over the body, including your around your genitals.
If clothing is causing your itch, consider going 100% cotton. Cotton is a great material that breathes well. Plus, its wicking qualities will help draw sweat away from your body and keep your skin dry. Cotton is also a soft fabric, which means it may help reduce friction.
What you eat can affect how your butt feels. “Maybe you have an unusual diet—like it’s very acidic, or you eat a lot of a certain irritant,” said Dr. Kim.
Certain foods can contribute to diarrhea or anal leakage, making it more challenging to wipe thoroughly and causing irritation and itching. The following foods have been associated with anal itching:
- Caffeine (including coffee, tea, and chocolate)
- Carbonated beverages
- Citrus fruits and vegetables
- Energy drinks
- Refined carbohydrates
- Spicy or acidic foods
It should be mentioned here that getting the right amount of fiber in your diet can be beneficial in preventing anal leakage.
Pinworms are another cause of genital itching. They are the most common type of worm infection in the United States. People get infected through person-to-person contact or by touching a surface contaminated with pinworm eggs.
Children can unknowingly touch a contaminated surface, put their fingers in their mouths, and swallow the pinworm eggs. The eggs then travel through the digestive tract and eventually migrate to the perianal area, causing itching and possibly infection.
The parasites are visible in an infected person’s feces. To diagnose pinworms in children, healthcare providers will use clear cellophane tape and place it on the skin around the child’s anus. The tape is then examined to identify pinworm eggs.
The infection mainly occurs in school-age children. It can, however, spread to their caregivers and other adults. Still, pinworms can be eliminated with two doses of oral medication (available over-the-counter or by prescription), given two weeks apart to prevent reinfection.
Hemorrhoids or Anal Fissures
If your chronic itch gets worse or becomes painful during a bowel movement, it could be hemorrhoids or anal fissures.
Hemorrhoids are swollen veins around the anus. They’re caused by too much pressure on the anus, like from straining to poop, chronic constipation or diarrhea, sitting on the toilet for long periods, and a low-fiber diet. Aging and pregnancy can weaken tissues, leading to hemorrhoids. Frequently lifting heavy objects can also put extra pressure on the anus.
In contrast, anal fissures are tiny tears in the thin, moist tissue lining the anus. A lack of blood flow causes these tears to the area or excess tension on the sphincter muscles that control the anus.
Both hemorrhoids and anal fissures can cause tiny blood spots on your toilet paper. If you have blood on your toilet paper, it doesn’t need to cause a major alarm. However, if your condition isn’t going away despite treatment or you notice significant blood in your stool, see a healthcare provider immediately.
Eating the right amount of fiber, staying hydrated, and finding other ways to relieve constipation and soften your stool can improve both conditions. Over-the-counter treatments are also available for both hemorrhoids and anal fissures.
Various infections can also cause anal itching. The anatomy of your buttocks creates a warm and moist environment. Unfortunately, this environment is ideal for several microorganisms that can cause infection.
Yeast infections can occur in various places on and in the body, including the perianal region. Candida, the fungus that causes them, lives almost everywhere. You’ve probably encountered it multiple times throughout your life.
Like other fungal species that can cause anal itchiness, Candida thrives in a warm, moist environment. These infections can be caused by tight-fitting clothing. They can also occur in people with a weakened immune system and people taking antibiotics.
Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs)
Anal itching can also be a symptom of sexually transmitted infections (STIs), including gonorrhea, herpes, and anal warts caused by the human papillomavirus (HPV). Symptoms usually occur around the anus of a person who has received anal sex.
The treatments will vary depending on the STI. With herpes, for example, antiviral creams and ointments can tame the burning and itching, while antiviral medicine (either as a pill or shot) keeps the virus under control. In the case of anal warts, topical creams, cryotherapy, or even surgery may be needed.
Scabies is a common skin condition caused by a tiny bug called the human itch mite. It’s very contagious and requires a prescription medication to treat. Scabies can result in an itchy rash and sores all over the body—including around the anus and genitals.
On the other hand, it’s probably not scabies if the only place you have itching is in the perianal area. Scabies is commonly found on the wrist, ankle, armpit, and between fingers or toes.
Chronic and Systemic Diseases
Certain long-term health conditions can contribute to anal itching and inflammation. For example, diabetes and autoimmune diseases can make people more vulnerable to bacterial or fungal infections.
Anal itchiness can also appear alongside liver disease, chronic kidney disease, and leukemia. Having vitamin or mineral deficiencies has been associated with anal itching as well. Some examples include iron as well as vitamin A and D deficiencies.
Diseases of the anus and rectum can also cause anal itching, including some digestive disorders like one type of Crohn’s disease. Diarrhea and stool leakage resulting from these types of conditions can irritate the skin around the anus.
“We have some suspicion that some of this type of itching is neurologic,” said Dr. Kim. “As patients get older, a lot of them have lower back injuries, and many people probably have minor damage to the nerves coming out of their spinal cords.”
These problems can cause twinges of pain or a nagging itch in the area around the buttocks and anus, added Dr. Kim. Also, this type of itch typically appears on skin that looks healthy, meaning there is usually no rash.
Treatment for this type of nerve damage varies, said Dr. Kim, but may include physical therapy, surgery, or behavior modification.
Having an itchy butt isn’t usually a reason to jump to scary conclusions. However, in rare cases, anal itchiness can also be a sign of cancer.
Both Paget’s and Bowen’s diseases are forms of skin cancer that attack the surface layer of the skin. Up to half of the people with Paget’s or Bowen’s disease experience anal itching. However, both diseases are rare and require a biopsy for diagnosis.
What To Do if Anal Itching Occurs
The causes of anal itching are very broad, so it can be hard to know where to start. Dr. Kim recommended talking to a healthcare provider. You could also check with a dermatologist if you think your problem is more skin-related or a gastroenterologist if it seems more digestive.
Also, take note of any other symptoms that you may be noticing in addition to anal itching. This will help you and your healthcare provider identify what’s causing the anal itching.
A Quick Review
Whatever you do, don’t sit there in silence with an uncomfortably itchy butt. If you’re hesitant to discuss the problem, remember you’re not alone. Anal itching is relatively common—and it can be treated.
The treatment will depend on the cause. Common reasons for anal itching include infections, skin conditions, and chronic diseases. Some conditions can be managed with home remedies, over-the-counter medicines, and lifestyle choices like eating high-fiber foods.
If symptoms last longer than a week despite treatment or you have anal bleeding, contact a healthcare provider. Healthcare providers will help you identify the root cause so you can take appropriate steps to treat it.
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