That Terrible Itch Down There

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The condition is actually quite common as an acute occurrence and most people will suffer from the condition for short periods of time at one time or another at some point in their lives.  Fortunately for most, the symptoms are usually short-lived and there is no reason to worry about an underlying health problem or see a physician about the condition.

However for a small percentage of people Pruritus Ani or itching around the skin of the anus can become a recurring, or a persistent chronic condition spanning years.  In such cases it can become quite severe, causing sleep disturbance, and leading to continued discomfort throughout one’s day.  It can be a thoroughly frustrating problem and those who suffer with it in the chronic form will often be reluctant to let others know of their symptoms and are reluctant to consult a physician about it.

The condition in its chronic form can sometimes be related to an underlying skin condition such a Dermatitis of some form (Irritant versus Allergic), Psoriasis, bacterial or fungal infection. In many cases of the chronic form it does come about from an irritant cause, and the underlying causes for the irritation can be numerous or additive and include

  • Chronically loose stools and intermittent diarrhea (bacteria in the fecal/stool can release enzymes that come into contact with the skin around the anus and serve as a chronic irritant).

  • On the opposite of the above, constipation and straining with bowel movement.

  • Once the itch sensation begins, scratching itself serves to perpetuate a vicious cycle knows as the itch-scratch-itch cycle.

  • Employing overly aggressive hygienic measures (that probably would not have been taken without the onset of the troubling symptoms) such as vigorous use of toilet paper, scrubbing excessively (or not even excessively) with soap and water, where normal soaps leach out natural skin protective compounds.

  • Acidic and spicy foods, plus other dietary contributors such as indulgence (or over-indulgence) in prunes, coffee, sodas, tomatoes, orange juice, and beer and other alcohol beverages.

A number of at-home or self-applied measures can be taken before you may decide to consult a physician and include

  • Try to NEVER SCRATCH the itch, as this can only erode or break the skin leading to increased sensitivity and itching.

  • Avoid over-indulgence in the foods and drinks mentioned above.

  • Petroleum jelly and a soap substitute can be used to apply and wash the area around the anus

  • Eat plenty of high-fiber foods; cereals, fruits, and vegetables to prevent straining with bowel movements

If these measures do not relieve the symptoms then it may be time to seek medical evaluation with a physician who is familiar with the condition in its chronic form.  After an evaluation and exam treatment and topically-medicated options in the context the above measures can be considered.