Anal Soap Equals Anal Pain & Itching

Medically reviewed by: Gary H. Hoffman, MD

Soap? No Soap!

A famous British proctologist, when referring to anal hygiene, once remarked that “People do more harm to their anal opening by trying to polish it clean, than if they would have simply left it alone.” And therein is the rub (so to speak). Colon and rectal surgeons have long known that with each attempt to clean the anus, more damage is done. The damage may be microscopic and is most often reversible, but, in the meantime, problems ensue.

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How often, in our offices, do we hear “But how else can I clean it?” Or “If I don’t wash it, I will smell.” Or this “I am embarrassed in intimate situations.” These phrases, and others, are heard from people young and old, of both genders and of all races. It seems as if anal “cleanliness” knows no boundaries. What to do? First, remember this, you wouldn’t put soap in your eye. Don’t put it on your anus.

What Is Pruritus?

Simply put, pruritus ani is a condition of an intense, often unrelenting itching around the anus or even the skin near the anus. It most commonly causes the urge to scratch the itch.

Most people incorrectly assume that the cause may be due to a lack of cleanliness. Or, they feel that if only they could clean the area more thoroughly, the itch would disappear. This mistaken belief sets off a cycle of more cleaning, followed by more itching, followed by more cleaning.

If I Cannot Use Soap, How Do I Clean?

The anal area is remarkably self-cleaning. People assume that they are “dirty”, when, in fact, there is nothing visible on the anus on examination. And, for those rare occasions when there is a bit of a discharge, there is underwear, to catch the discharge.

If you absolutely, positively 100% “need” to “clean”, try the following:

  • Water. Stool is water soluble and will be cleaned with water alone.
  • Baby wipes (preferably without alcohol)
  • Witch hazel
  • Preparation H® anti itch cream
  • Vaseline (to protect the area), zinc oxide, Desitin®
  • Prescription strength hydrocortisone ointment.
  • Nothing at all.

Could The Itching Have Other Causes?

Of course. Below is a list of other reasons for itching. But remember, serious, threatening causes of pruritus, are rare:

  • Skin too dry or too moist.
  • Incontinence (especially as we age or by overuse of laxatives).
  • Chemicals in our food, toilet paper.
  • Benign anal conditions such as hemorrhoids, fistulas, psoriasis, yeast infections, STD’s (sexually transmitted diseases), pinworms (in children),
  • Stress.
  • Rare anal tumors.

Next? Los Angeles Colon and Rectal Surgical Associates.

Don’t let pruritus ani ruin your life or seriously impact your social life. The condition is usually treatable. The board certified surgeons of Los Angeles Colon and Rectal Surgical Associates are trained to help you in a confidential manner that should restore you to health. The surgeons have expertise in all areas of diseases of the colon, rectum and anus. By calling (310)273-2310, to schedule a consultation, you can begin the healing process.

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