Do you look after your bottom? Is your arse healthy?
It’s easy to be embarrassed when talking about that part of the body, but if you’ve got a problem it’s never a good idea to sit on it! But seriously, bumhole problems are usually much easier to treat if you go to the doctor sooner rather than later.
Anal itch is a good example. This may be due to dermatitis or sensitivity to soap, or it could be a fungal or bacterial infection, or even herpes. Anal pain is a common symptom. If you also have a discharge then it could be rectal gonorrhoea. There are some other STIs that can cause pain, including herpes and chlamydia. These symptoms should always prompt you to go straight to the doctor.
Haemorrhoids or piles are another common problem. An external haemorrhoid will often appear suddenly. It starts as a painful lump around the anal opening, and it rapidly swells in size and becomes so painful you might not be able to sit. There might be some bleeding too. It’s basically a blood clot in a swollen vein close to the skin’s surface. If it’s very small then an over the counter cream from the pharmacy may do the trick, but larger haemorrhoids will need more serious intervention. Prompt treatment involves cutting open the lump and getting the blood clot out. Sounds painful, and yes, it is, but with some local anaesthetic it’s generally tolerable and provides instant relief. The alternative is to do nothing and wait weeks or months for the lump to go down.
Internal haemorrhoids usually cause bleeding when you move your bowels, but don’t tend to be painful. Haemorrhoids can be caused by chronic constipation, weight-lifting, and anal sex. They can be treated with creams, but if they keep happening you might be referred to a surgeon who can remove them.
Another cause of painful bleeding from the bum is an anal fissure. This is a tear in the edge of the anus. The bleeding from this can be quite spectacular. Unfortunately they can occur after anal sex, and may take weeks or months to heal. There is a cream you can get from the pharmacy which helps with the healing process, but ultimately they may need surgery.
Anal warts, especially internal warts which you might not even be aware of, can also cause bleeding. Generally the GP can freeze these off.
A rare cause of anal bleeding but important not to miss is cancer of the rectum or anus. The only way to know if there is a cancer present is to have a proper examination of the back passage – your doctor can do this.
So the bottom line is if you develop any symptoms, don’t stick your head (or bum) in the sand, go and see your doctor. A quick check-up can give you peace of mind and the right treatment for your problem.
Dr Fiona Bisshop specialises in LGBT health.
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