Pimples tend to be skin problems most associated with the face, though they can form on your back, pubic area, and just about anywhere on the body — including the anus.

If you notice what appears to be an anal pimple, don’t pick at it. That can lead to infection and other complications.

The bump you feel may also be a different health concern, including a hemorrhoid or a cyst that will require treatment by a healthcare professional.

Of course, it’s possible that what you suspect to be a pimple is in fact just an ordinary pimple on your anus.

There are different types of pimples, including pustules, which are small raised pink or red bumps that contain pus. Larger papule-like bumps embedded in the skin are called nodules, while larger, pus-filled lumps are called cysts. Nodules and cysts tend to be the most painful kinds of pimples.

A typical pustule may itch and have a rough tip. Pustules or any kind of anal pimples can become more uncomfortable as sitting, moving, sweating, and having bowel movements all can irritate a pimple once it has formed.

A pimple forms when a pore becomes clogged. A pore is a tiny hole in your skin that opens to a follicle just below the surface. A follicle contains a hair and an oil gland. The oil helps keep your skin soft and also helps remove dead cells.

Unfortunately, oil glands can become overactive, producing an excessive amount of oil (sebum) that causes the pore to clog. Causes of too much oil production include:

Sweat

Sweat and moisture can become trapped against your skin, whether it’s around the anus or anywhere else.

Bacteria

Because the anus is where stool is expelled from the rectum, the area contains a lot of bacteria. Sexual activity may also increase bacteria in this area.

Sometimes the body’s immune system responds to bacteria in the pores by triggering activity in the oil glands, which then cause pimples to form.

Hormones

Changes in your hormonal levels, brought on by puberty, pregnancy, menstrual cycles, and even stress, can cause oil glands to produce too much oil.

Other factors can also increase your odds of developing pimples on your anus and elsewhere on your body:

Genetics

Problems with pimples and other types of acne often run in families.

Skin irritation

Sitting for long periods or wearing tight or sweaty clothes may bother the skin and cause an outbreak.

Hygiene

Failing to keep the area as clean as possible makes it more likely you’ll develop anal pimples.

Diet

The role of diet and pimple formation has been debated for many years. While it doesn’t appear that eating greasy foods causes pimples, diets high in refined sugar or dairy may be risk factors.

If you feel a bump in your anus and believe it is not an anal pimple, you should see a doctor quickly for a proper diagnosis.

The first thing to remember with an anal pimple is to not squeeze or pick at it. A few basic hygiene steps may be enough to solve the problem:

  • Wipe thoroughly after every bowel movement.
  • Clean your anus and buttocks with soap and water when bathing and showering.
  • Wear clean cotton underwear, which tends to breathe more than other fabrics.
  • Remove wet underwear, bathing suit, or other clothes as soon as possible.

Some medications may be helpful in helping anal pimples shrink and disappear:

Oral retinoids

Retinoids, such as acitretin (Soriatane), are made from vitamin A. They are also prescribed for other skin conditions, such as psoriasis.

Benzoyl peroxide

Benzoyl peroxide (Benzoyl) kills the bacteria causing pimples. It is available as a topical ointment or cream, but be careful as it can bleach or stain fabrics. Talk to a doctor to make sure benzoyl peroxide is safe to apply to the anus.

Salicylic acid

This medication comes in many forms, including soaps, ointments, creams, and pads. Salicylic acid (Virasal, Salex) is used to treat acne, warts, psoriasis and other skin conditions.

Some mild forms of salicylic acid are available over the counter, while stronger medications require a doctor’s prescription.

Be sure to read the instructions and precautions carefully. Salicylic acid may be appropriate for pimples around the anus, but not within the anus. Consult a dermatologist first.

An anal abscess is an infection that results in a collection of pus in the deeper layers of the skin. Usually people will experience a lot of pain and redness at the site of the abscess. They frequently will require surgical drainage and antibiotics to treat it.

A pimple is a small localized build-up of sebum, dead skin cells, and bacteria clogging a hair follicle, usually at the surface of the skin. It resolves on its own. However, if it is deeper in the skin, it can develop into an abscess.

A hemorrhoid is a swollen vein just under the skin on the rectum or anus. In some cases, a blood clot can form, causing greater swelling and discomfort. If the bump you feel is sensitive or painful, it may be a hemorrhoid.

Sometimes, a hemorrhoid can bleed. You may see some bright red blood when you wipe after a bowel movement if you have hemorrhoids.

A pilonidal cyst starts as a small sac or pocket of skin that has become clogged with oil and skin debris. If it becomes infected, a pilonidal cyst can become a painful abscess.

One way to distinguish a pilonidal cyst from an anal pimple is that a pilonidal cyst usually forms near the top of the crack in your buttocks, rather than lower down in or around the anus.

Several types of STDs, such as genital herpes, can cause pimple-like bumps to form around your anus and pubic area. These conditions are viruses and usually don’t present as just one or two bumps.

Herpes often has other symptoms, such as fever and chills.

Anal cancer occurs when cancer cells develop in the tissue of the anus. Bleeding from the rectum is one of the early symptoms, along with formation of a lump around the opening of anus. The lump can be itchy and painful.

Anal cancer can cause changes in bowel movements, too.

Anal warts are caused by the human papillomavirus (HPV), the most common sexually transmitted disease.

Anal warts differ significantly from pimples in that warts start out very small and can grow to be large, possibly covering much of the anus.

Molluscum contagiosum is a virus that can be transmitted through skin-to-skin contact. The main symptoms are small pink or reddish bumps.

Unlike pimples, molluscum bumps are usually smooth. They can grow large, but tend to be painless. If you have a weakened immune system, the bumps are more likely to spread to other parts of the body.

If you are unsure whether the bump is a pimple or a hemorrhoid or other condition, be sure to check with a doctor. Treating the pimple the wrong way may not only fail to improve your condition, but it may lead to unwanted side effects.

A pimple should fade after practicing good hygiene and using an over-the-counter treatment for a few days. If this doesn’t happen, or you see more bumps appearing, make an appointment soon.

The earlier a healthcare professional diagnoses a virus or a hemorrhoid, the easier it is to treat it effectively.