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Identifying the Symptoms of a Rectal Fistula

Recognizing the symptoms of a rectal fistula is one of the first steps toward receiving the treatment you need to find relief from this often painful condition. Most often caused by an abscess near the anus, a rectal fistula is a narrow channel that can develop in the tissue between the colon and the anal opening, often producing an external opening in the skin near the anus. After an anal abscess has been drained, a fistula can remain and cause significant pain as well as the danger of infection.

There are five classifications of a rectal fistula, based on its location in relation to the sphincter muscles. No matter how it is classified, the symptoms of a rectal fistula are fairly consistent, with a hole in the skin near the anus being the most prominent sign that a fistula is present. Other symptoms include:

  • Anorectal pain
  • Swelling near the anus
  • Redness of the surrounding skin
  • Itching
  • Fever
  • Rectal bleeding
  • Fluid discharge

If you’ve been diagnosed with a rectal fistula, surgery will most likely be needed. The type of surgery recommended will depend on where the fistula lies, though it’s likely that the fistula will be opened so it can heal from the inside out. Another option involves the injection of fibrin glue into the fistula, with the hope that channel will heal from the inside without requiring additional surgery.

If you believe you are experiencing the symptoms of a rectal fistula, the physicians at Tampa General Hospital’s Endoscopy Center can help diagnose the condition and formulate a rectal fistula treatment plan for you. We are proud to have been named one of America’s Best Hospitals in Gastroenterology & GI Surgery by U.S. News & World Report in 2019-20. To find a gastroenterologist who can diagnose and treat your condition, use Tampa General Hospital’s Physician Finder or call 1-800-833-3627.