EXPERIENCING persistent itching anywhere on the body is never a pleasant sensation, but when the itching occurs in an area that is sensitive and private, it can be even more distressing.
Itching, wherever it appears on the body, is a symptom, rather than a condition, so it is important not to ignore it and to try and identify what might be causing it.
GP Dr Sarah Garsed says experiencing an itchy bum is more common than you might think.
She says: “While many people don’t talk openly about this symptom – usually for fear of embarrassment – experiencing itching of the bum is very common and can be a sign of something as simple as what you ate the night before, or as complicated as infection.
“You should never feel embarrassed to bring up these symptoms with your GP, believe me, we’ve heard it all before and the good news is, we can help you treat the annoying symptom quickly and effectively before it gets worse.
“Most cases of anal itching go away after a day or so, while others are easily treatable with creams and mild medications.”
Experiencing an itchy bum and not sure if you need to visit your GP?
Here Dr Sarah outlines 14 common reasons for an itchy bum, and when to worry.
1. Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs)
STIs often cause itching to those who are suffering, and an itchy bum is one the most common (and annoying) symptoms of both anal herpes and gonorrhea.
If you suspect you have either of these, visit your GP or nearest sexual health clinic.
2. Tight fitting underwear
The bum/anus is a very sensitive area and if restricted for a long period of time, itching can occur.
If you wear very tight underwear, especially overnight, your bum gets warm and can overheat which causes itching and irritation.
Try sleeping in loose fitting clothing and breathable fabrics like cotton.
3. Bacterial Infection
Infections – such as impetigo – are common and contagious skin infections that causes sores and itching.
These common infections are not serious, especially if treated quickly.
Impetigo can affect people of any age, but it tends to affect children and young adults more often than adults and will usually go away within a week of treatment – see your GP.
4. Stress and anxiety
Prolonged periods of stress and anxiety can impact the body in many ways and cause inflammation.
This can cause irritation of the gut and the bum, causing itchiness.
If you are stressed, try ways to reduce your levels of anxiety like exercise, sleep, meditation and controlled breathing.
5. Anal Fissure
An anal fissure is a tear or sore that develops in the large intestine, near the anus and is often caused when you pass hard or large stools during a bowel movement.
While anal fissures are usually painful and cause bleeding – when anal fissures heal they can be very itchy.
It is this healing stage that can take a good few days or even weeks, so itching can be prolonged.
Eczema is a very common and widely talked about skin condition that causes itching, rashes and dryness.
Atopic eczema is the most common form of the skin condition and simply means that it is allergy related.
While the bum is not the most common place for eczema to appear, for those who suffer with the condition, it is not uncommon either.
If you suffer from eczema and begin to experience an itchy bum, visit your GP.
Psoriasis is a common skin condition that can cause red, flaky patches of skin covered often accompanied by silvery scales.
Some sufferers find their psoriasis causes itching or soreness and it can appear anywhere on the body, including the bum.
Although the condition isn’t fully understood, it is thought to be related to a problem with the immune system and can often flare up in times of stress and anxiety.
There are no treatments for psoriasis but if you suspect you have psoriasis, visit your GP.
8. Haemorrhoids (piles)
Haemorrhoids are small swellings of swollen blood vessels in and around the bum/anus.
Hemorrhoids occur when veins in this area of the body swell and it is so common that around 75 percent of adults will experience it at some point in their lives.
Haemorrhoids are very common in pregnancy and postpartum.
If you are experiencing an itchy bum, see if you can feel or see any small swellings and notice if it is painful to poo.
Most haemorrhoids go away on their own, but if symptoms persist, visit your GP.
Diabetes is a lifelong condition that causes blood sugar (glucose) to become too high.
It’s dubbed a silent killer, due to the fact many people don’t know they’re at risk of type 2, and complications include stroke, heart attack and heart failure.
There are two main types of diabetes:
Type 1 – where the pancreas doesn’t produce any insulin, sufferers are usually born with this
Type 2 – where the pancreas doesn’t produce enough insulin or the body’s cells don’t react to insulin, sufferers usually develop this later in life.
Diabetes, and the poor circulation that often comes with it, can lead to excessive scratching and irritation, and this can often be experienced on the bum.
10. Some medications
Some medications can cause an itchy bum as a side effect.
If you have recently begun new meds and are now experiencing an itchy bum, speak to your pharmacist or GP who can advise.
Lots of foods can irritate the bum or make itching worse.
Spicy foods, citrus fruits and dairy products can cause anal itching.
Drinks that dehydrate you and upset your gut, including coffee, alcohol and high sugar fizzy drinks can all cause an itchy bum.
If you have a diet that includes lots of these, it’s best to remove these one by one, every few days, to help determine which could be causing your itching.
Threadworms are very small worms in your poo.
If your itchy bottom is worse at night it could be threadworms, because the worms are more active at night.
Threadworms are more common in children. See your GP if you suspect you or your child have them.
13. Soiling yourself
Experiencing a loose bowel movement, no matter how big or small, in your underwear can cause an itchy bum due to the moisture that sits around the bum.
Moisture from sweating or heat can also cause an itchy bum. It’s important to keep the area clean and dry as much as possible.
Scabies is a skin condition caused by small mites that burrow into the skin.
A scabies rash consists of tiny red spots and these can appear anywhere on the body, but many people find they experience the condition on and around the bum.
Visit your GP if you suspect you have a scabies-like rash or itch and you will usually be treated with a cream or lotion.
When to seek medical help
Dr Sarah says: “If you have waited a few days for your symptoms to pass and have tried cleaning the area, keeping it free of tight clothing and moisture and cutting irritating foods and drinks out of your diet, but are still experiencing itching, it is worth visiting your GP.
“If you experience itching alongside bleeding, experience extreme pain or feel that the itching is seriously impacting your daily life, you should go to see your GP.”
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