What Are Anal Fistulas?

Anal fistulas are a condition whereby an abnormal tunnel forms between the anus and the skin around it. They commonly develop from an abscess in the anal glands, infections or, in some rare cases, the ulceration of malignant tumours. As the pus drains from the abscess, it can leave a small channel behind.

Anal fistulas often develop low down in the anal canal and tend to be quite short, though sometimes, much longer fistulas can occur higher up within the anus. The long, winding nature of the tunnels that form makes them quite difficult to drain effectively, and in cases where the outer layer of skin heals without doing so, recurrent abscesses may develop.
While often found between the anus and the skin surrounding it, anal fistulas can also form between the anal canal and other nearby organs, such as the vagina or urinary tract.

At N.A. Hemorrhoids Centre, we are equipped to treat patients with anal fistulas.

Anal Fistulas Symptoms

The main symptom of anal fistulas is intensely painful recurring inflammation around the anus. You may also notice foul-smelling discharge where fistulas have become ulcerous. Alongside these significant warning signs, keep out for the following symptoms:

  • Bleeding
  • Difficulty controlling your bowel movements
  • Swelling
  • Fever
  • Fatigue
  • Irritation of the skin around the anus

Anal fistulas can cause lasting discomfort and serious complications if left untreated. It is not uncommon for bacterial infections to develop, which may eventually result in sepsis. If you are experiencing any of the symptoms above, seek the advice of a medical professional at N.A. Hemorrhoids Centre as soon as possible.

In up to 50% of cases of anal fistulas, the tunnel itself can remain even after proper treatment, so do not ignore any recurring symptoms.

Types of Anal Fistulas

While there are many different medical classifications of anal fistulas, we can better understand them by grouping them into two distinct categories – Simple Fistulas and Complex Fistulas.

Simple Fistulas

Simple fistulas are defined as those that involve less than 30% of the external anal sphincter. They are generally due to glandular obstruction that causes an abscess to form and usually only consist of a single tract.

Simple fistulas tend to be simple to treat and are very unlikely to lead to complications. Treatment involves a simple surgery whereby the doctor will cut the skin and the muscle tissue surrounding the fistula, allowing it to drain more easily and effectively heal all the way through.

Complex Fistulas

Complex fistulas will involve 30% or more of the external sphincter. They often consist of multiple tracts and have a higher likelihood of being a recurring condition. Complex fistulas can also be associated with underlying conditions that may cause weak function in the sphincter, such as Crohn’s disease or those undergoing radiation treatment.

Complex fistulas can be much more challenging to treat due to the added involvement of the external sphincter. Because of this, a fistulotomy is usually not suitable, and a staged repair process is favourable to retain sphincter function.

What Causes Anal Fistulas?

The anus contains several different glands that produce fluid. When a gland becomes obstructed, infections can occur, and small pus-filled abscesses can develop. If an anal fistula is left untreated, the abscess will grow until it gets to the point where the pus begins to drain. This pus will find its way out through the skin near the anus and leave a small tunnel (or fistula) behind it.

Most commonly, fistulas are caused by abscesses such as this, but in rare cases, they can be linked to pre-existing conditions. Anal Fistulas can indicate Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, tuberculosis, or sexually transmitted diseases. If you are found to have anal fistulas, your medical professional may suggest you take further tests for these conditions.

Our Treatment Program

We have years of experience treating all kinds of anal fistulas at our clinic and can help alleviate your symptoms quickly and effectively. If you are experiencing any of the symptoms of anal fistulas, don’t hesitate to get in touch and see how we can help you.

The main treatment programs we offer are our Guoyi Proctology Therapy and our Microsurgery & Naturopathic Treatment.

Guoyi Proctology Therapy

Our BAZHISAN treatment is an herbal ointment combined with Naturopathic Treatment. BAZHISAN soothes pain, stops bleeding, and closes wounds to aid healing. The treatment eradicates symptoms by restricting blood flow to the region where it is applied, reducing swelling, and facilitating faster recovery.

Microsurgery & Naturopathic Treatment

For some cases, we combine naturopathic treatment with microsurgery. Microsurgery combined with naturopathic treatment can be particularly effective for simple anal fistulas. Microsurgery will allow fistulas to heal from the inside out, reducing the likelihood of complications and chances of the condition resurfacing in the future.


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