An anal fistula is a medical condition that affects a number of individuals worldwide and may get so bad to the point you ask, do I need anal fistula surgery?
The answer to this question depends on different factors such as the severity of the condition and the presence of any pre-existing medical conditions.
Decoding Anal Fistula
The anus is the opening through which unwanted elements are excreted out of the body. It contains several tiny glands that produce mucus. When these glands become clogged and infected, they can cause a pus buildup, leading to an abscess formation.
Anal Fistula: Causes and Early Signs
Clogged anal glands and the development of anal abscess are the primary causes of anal fistulas. Other conditions that can lead to the formation of a fistula include Crohn’s disease, trauma, cancer, radiation therapy for cancer, sexually transmitted diseases, diverticulitis and tuberculosis.
Key Indications of Anal Fistula
In order to receive prompt and efficient anal fistula treatment, it is crucial to be aware of the key indicators that suggest the presence of an anal fistula.
One of the most common indicators of anal fistula is difficulty with bowel movements. This can include discomfort, pain, or even a complete inability to pass stool. This is caused by a fistula impeding the normal flow of feces through the anus.
Skin irritation or infection in the anal area is one of the other common anal fistula symptoms. You may experience redness, itching, swelling or even blood discharge. If you do not treat this, skin irritation can become severe and lead to complications like cellulitis or abscesses.
In some cases, you may have a fever and similar infection symptoms like chills, fatigue and a general sense of malaise due to the fistula.
If you have any of these symptoms, seek medical attention as soon as possible. These signs may indicate a more serious underlying condition.
An anal fistula can be treated effectively with surgery. Early intervention can help prevent complications and promote a full recovery.
Diagnosis of anal fistula
If you suspect you may have an anal fistula, the first step is to visit a doctor. Your physician will perform a simple visual examination of the area around the anus to begin the diagnosis. During the examination, the doctor searches for a skin opening like the fistula tract to determine the depth of the tract and the direction in which it is moving. If the fistula is visible, there may be drainage from the external opening.
However, in some cases, the physician may not be able to see the fistula on the skin’s surface. In such a case, they may conduct some additional tests to confirm the diagnosis.
An anoscopy procedure helps to establish the severity of the situation as the doctor uses a particular device to inspect your anus and rectum. This test presents an in-depth view of the fistula tract and helps the doctor determine the size and place of the fistula.
Nowadays, physicians may even ask you to get an ultrasound or MRI of the anal area. These imaging tests provide detailed information about the fistula tract and its surrounding tissues.
In other cases, the physician may need to examine you in the operating room to diagnose the fistula. This examination is performed while you are under anesthesia and allows the doctor to get a clear view of the fistula without discomfort or pain.
When an Anal Fistula is Found
If the fistula is found, the doctor may want to perform additional tests to check if the condition is related to Crohn’s disease. Crohn’s disease is a condition leading to the inflammation of the intestine. Around one out of four people having this inflammatory disease also have a fistula. To understand if the fistula is related to Crohn’s disease, the doctor may perform an X-ray, test the blood or conduct a colonoscopy.
The colonoscopy can provide detailed information about the fistula and help the doctor determine the best course of treatment. In this procedure, a flexible, lighted-emitting device is inserted into the colon via the anus. This test is performed under conscious sedation, a type of light anesthetic.
Diagnosing an anal fistula is a multi-step process that may involve several tests and examinations. The tests and examinations help the doctor understand anal fistula causes. It also helps them to determine the size and location of the fistula. All these are critical in selecting the most effective course of treatment.
Anal Fistula Treatment
Surgery is the most effective anal fistula treatment. The surgery aims to eliminate the fistula while causing no harm to the anal sphincter muscles. In most cases, the patient can go home on the same day after the surgery. Post-surgery care involves taking a warm bath and consuming laxatives for softening the stool.
When no or minimal sphincter muscles are involved, a fistulotomy is performed. This procedure converts the skin and muscle tunnel into an open groove. Apart from this, stem cell injection is also another treatment.
Anal fistula Surgery: Is It Necessary?
In many cases, surgery is the most effective treatment for anal fistulas. The surgery typically involves removing the fistula and repairing any damage to the surrounding tissue. However, do not take the decision to undergo surgery lightly. This decision should be based on a thorough evaluation of the patient’s medical history and current health status.
If the fistula is small and asymptomatic, surgery might not be necessary. In such cases, the patient may be able to manage their symptoms through conservative treatments such as antibiotics, dietary changes as well as regular hygiene practices.
However, if the fistula is causing a lot of discomfort and pain or if it is associated with any underlying medical conditions such as Crohn’s disease, surgery might be the best option. In such cases, the benefits of surgery far outweigh the risks, and the patient may be able to experience significant improvement in their quality of life.
In addition to this, surgery may also be required if the fistula is recurrent or has failed to respond to conservative treatments. In such cases, surgery might be the only option to provide the patient with long-term relief from anal fistula symptoms.
If you are looking to seek professional guidance, call Dr. Kamrava to make an appointment and get an anal examination. Dr. Kamrava is a certified colorectal surgeon who treats each patient with care and compassion. During your consultation, Dr. Kamrava will address any concerns you may have and choose the precise course of action to give you the best possible treatment and promote a speedy recovery.