Last Updated on July 9, 2023 by Shabnam Sengupta
Anal fistulas are abnormal passageways that develop between the anus and the surrounding skin. In this article, we will discuss whether anal fistulas can lead to complications and explore the potential complications that can arise from them. We will examine the ways to manage them.
Can anal fistula cause any complications?
Yes, anal fistulas can sometimes lead to complications. While they can vary in severity, the presence of an anal fistula can give rise to several potential complications, including:
- Recurrent Infections: In some cases, the abnormal tract of an anal fistula can act as a pathway for bacteria. This can lead to the occurrence of recurrent infections in the anal area, causing symptoms such as pain, swelling, redness, and discharge.
- Abscess Formation: Researchers commonly associate anal fistula with an underlying abscess, a pus collection, which can further cause increased pain, swelling, tenderness, and overall discomfort.
- Faecal Incontinence: Sometimes, mainly when the anal fistula involves the anal sphincter muscles, there is a risk of faecal incontinence. The fistula can hamper the integrity of the sphincter muscles, causing problems in controlling bowel movements and resulting in the unintentional leakage of stool.
- Pain and Discomfort: Anal fistulas can cause chronic pain and discomfort, especially during bowel movements or prolonged periods of sitting. This constant irritation and inflammation due to fistula can lead to a decreased quality of life.
- Recurrence: Anal fistulas can be challenging to treat, and there is a risk of recurrence even after surgical intervention.
How can the complications of anal fistula be managed?
Managing complications associated with anal fistulas depends on the specific complication and its severity. Here are some approaches that doctors commonly recommend to manage the complications of anal fistulas:
- Recurrent Infections
Antibiotics: In cases of recurrent infections, doctors may prescribe antibiotics to treat the underlying infection and prevent further complications.
Proper hygiene: The patient must maintain good anal hygiene by gently cleaning the area with warm water and mild cleansers can help prevent infection and reduce the risk of complications. One must also avoid irritants such as harsh soaps or perfumed products.
- Abscess Formation
Incision and drainage: If an abscess develops, the doctor may need to surgically incise and drain it. They will perform this procedure to alleviate pain, reduce swelling, and promote healing.
- Fecal Incontinence:
Sphincter repair or reconstruction: In cases where the anal fistula caused damage to the anal sphincter muscles, the doctors may consider surgical repair or reconstruction of the sphincter to improve bowel control and reduce faecal incontinence.
- Pain and Discomfort:
Prescribed pain relievers or analgesics can be used to manage pain and discomfort associated with anal fistulas. To alleviate local discomfort, topical treatments, such as lidocaine ointments or creams, may also be used.
- Recurrence and Complexity:
Repeat surgery: If a fistula recurs or is complex, further surgical intervention may be necessary. Procedures such as fistulotomy (complete removal of the fistula tract) or techniques like advancement flaps or seton placement may be considered to address the recurrence and promote healing.
Remember, it is pivotal to consult with an expert to determine the most appropriate treatment approach based on individual circumstances.
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