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Feature Article

Pruritus ani: some answers for that maddening itch!

Jenny Menz

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Abstract

Many cases of itch in the perianal region result from poor hygiene practices, but others may have underlying pathology which should be determined if possible. Patient education is mandatory.

Key Points

  • Pruritus ani is a common condition and is more frequent in men than women.
  • Pruritus ani is a symptom rather than a diagnosis.
  • Faecal contamination is a predisposing factor. Local hygiene problems frequently contribute to faecal contamination, and surgical problems such as haemorrhoids, fissures, mucosal prolapse or scars may be causes of anal leakage.
  • Dermatoses, infections or cancers are other possible underlying causes.
  • With the removal of underlying pathology, the itch often resolves.
  • Patients are often reticent in discussing the condition and the general practitioner has an important role to play in supporting the patient.

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