What Is An Anal Fissure?
An anal fissure is a small tear or cut in the skin lining the anus which can
cause pain and/or bleeding.
What Are The Symptons of An Anal Fissure?
Figure 1. A simple acute fissure, transanal view.
The typical symptoms of an anal fissure are extreme pain during defecation and
red blood streaking the stool. Patients may try to avoid defecation because
of the pain.
What Causes An Anal Fissure?
A hard, dry bowel movement can cause a tear in the anal lining, resulting in
a fissure. Other causes of a fissure include diarrhea and inflammation of the
fissures may be acute (recent onset) or chronic (present for a long time or
recurring frequently). An acute fissure is usually due to altered bowel habits
while a chronic fissure may be either due to poor bowel habits, overly tight
or spastic anal sphincter muscles, scarring or an underlying medical problem.
How Can A Fissure Be Treated?
An acute fissure is managed with non-operative treatments and over 90% will
heal without surgery. Bowel habits are improved with a high fiber diet, bulking
agents (fiber supplements), stool softeners, and plenty of fluids to avoid
constipation and promote the passage of soft stools. Warm baths for 10-20 minutes
several times each day are soothing and promote relaxation of the anal muscles.
Occasionally, special medicated creams may be recommended.
A chronic fissure (lasting greater than one month) may require additional treatment.
Depending on the appearance of the fissure, other medical problems such as
inflammatory bowel disease or infections may be considered and testing may
be recommended. A manometry test may be performed to determine if anal sphincter
pressures are high. An examination under anesthesia may be recommended to determine
if a definite reason exists for lack of healing.
What Can Be Done If A Fissure Doesn't Heal?
A fissure that fails to respond to treatment should be re-examined to determine
if a definitive reason exists for lack of healing. Such reasons can include
scarring or muscle spasm of the internal anal sphincter muscle. Those which
continue to cause pain and/or bleeding can be corrected by surgery.
What Does Surgery Involve?
Surgery usual consists of a small operation to cut a portion of the internal
anal sphincter muscle. This helps the fissure to heal by decreasing pain and
spasm. Cutting this muscle rarely interferes with the ability to control bowel
movements and can usually be performed without an overnight hospital stay.
Figure 2. A chronic fissure with a skin tag and a hypertrophied anal papilla,
How Long Does the Healing Process Take After Surgery?
Complete healing occurs in a few weeks, although pain often disappears after
a few days.
Will The Problem Return?
More than 90% of patients who require surgery for this problem have no further
trouble from fissures. If the problem returns without an obvious cause, the
person may need further assessment including anal manometry testing or an exam
Can Fissures Lead to Colon Cancer?
No! Persistent symptoms need careful evaluation, however, since conditions
other than fissure can cause similar symptoms.
Reference: American Society
of Colon and Rectal Surgeons