You can typically treat an acute anal fissure at home if you’ve had mild symptoms for fewer than 6 weeks.
An anal fissure is a common condition. It’s a superficial tear in the skin near the anus. Factors like constipation, a low fiber diet, trauma, or prior anal surgery can cause it.
Anal fissures can cause pain, bleeding, and discomfort, particularly during and after bowel movements.
How serious is this condition? If this happens to you, can you treat it at home? Overall, it depends on the severity.
If your anal fissure is new and you’ve had symptoms for fewer than 6 weeks without any serious issues, you can try at-home treatments.
However, if it persists for over 6 weeks, known as a chronic fissure, it requires medical attention due to potential underlying conditions.
Some fissures may be linked to underlying conditions, like:
If you ever encounter severe pain, excessive bleeding, or worsening symptoms, seek immediate medical care.
Best at-home treatment options for an anal fissure
At-home treatments for anal fissures can help alleviate symptoms and promote healing, particularly for acute fissures.
Here are some of the best at-home treatments:
- Sitz baths: Soaking the anal area in warm water for 10–15 minutes a few times a day can relieve pain and promote healing. You can do this in a small basin or bathtub.
- Stool softeners: Using over-the-counter (OTC) stool softeners or fiber supplements can make bowel movements softer and less painful, reducing the risk of further injury.
- High fiber diet: A diet rich in fiber from fruits, vegetables, and whole grains can help prevent constipation and promote regular, softer bowel movements.
- Hydration: Drinking plenty of water is essential to maintain soft stools and prevent dehydration.
- Topical analgesics: OTC creams and ointments containing lidocaine may provide temporary pain relief when applied to the anal area. Follow the product’s instructions carefully.
- Good anal hygiene: Gently clean the anal area with mild, unscented soap and water after bowel movements. Avoid using rough or scented toilet paper.
The time it takes for an anal fissure to heal can vary depending on several factors, including:
- the severity of the fissure
- the effectiveness of the chosen treatment
- individual differences
Here’s a rough timeline for healing:
- Acute anal fissure: With proper treatment, acute fissures may show improvement in a few days to a week. It may completely heal within a few weeks.
- Chronic anal fissure: Chronic fissures are older or recurring tears, so they may take longer to heal. Treatment for chronic fissures can last several weeks to a few months.
It’s advisable to talk with a doctor if you suspect you have an anal fissure or experience symptoms associated with it.
Here are some common situations in which you should seek medical attention for an anal fissure:
- Persistent symptoms: This includes symptoms such as anal pain, bleeding, or discomfort that do not improve with at-home treatments within a few weeks.
- Recurrent anal fissures: If you’ve had anal fissures in the past and are experiencing another one, talk with a doctor.
- Severe pain or bleeding: If you have severe pain during bowel movements or notice excessive bleeding from your rectum, it’s important to seek immediate medical attention.
- Fissure complications: Anal fissures can sometimes lead to complications, such as an infection or the development of an anal abscess.
- Health conditions: If you have underlying health conditions that may affect your gastrointestinal system, such as Crohn’s disease, IBD, or HIV, seek medical advice for the management of anal fissures.
- No improvement: If you’ve been following at-home treatments and haven’t seen any improvement or your symptoms worsen, it’s time to schedule a medical evaluation.
A healthcare professional can diagnose the fissure, assess its severity, and recommend appropriate treatments. Treatment options may include:
- dietary changes
- lifestyle changes and strategies
- surgical procedures, in some cases
Preventing anal fissures involves maintaining good bowel habits and reducing the risk of trauma to the anal area.
Here are some preventive measures to consider:
- Dietary changes: Consume a high fiber diet to keep stools soft and regular. Include fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and plenty of fluids in your diet.
- Hydration: Drink an adequate amount of water to stay well hydrated.
- Good bowel habits: Go to the toilet when you have the urge to have a bowel movement. Avoid delaying it.
- Avoid straining: If you’re having trouble passing stools, consider using stool softeners or fiber supplements under medical guidance.
- Use soft toilet paper: Use soft, unscented toilet paper. Consider using wet wipes or a bidet for a gentler cleaning.
- Physical activity: Regular physical activity can help promote healthy bowel function.
- Hygienic practices: Avoid using harsh soaps or excessive scrubbing. After a bowel movement, gently cleanse the area with warm water or a mild, unscented soap and pat dry.
- Lubrication: Consider using a water-based lubricant before anal intercourse to reduce friction and the risk of injury.
Treating anal fissures at home with measures such as dietary changes, proper hygiene, and sitz baths can be effective in many cases, especially for acute fissures.
However, if symptoms persist or worsen or you have chronic or recurring fissures, it’s important to seek medical advice.
A healthcare professional can determine the cause of the fissures, recommend appropriate treatments, and rule out any underlying conditions.