Patient Education Program
What You Should Know About Anal Fistulas
What is a fistula?
A fistula is a tract, a tunnel that begins inside the anal canal and burrows through the surrounding tissues out to the skin.
What causes a fistula?
Most fistulas are formed from an infection in the glands within the anal canal. As the infection spreads to the tissues outside the anus, an abscess forms. When this breaks open, or is drained, a fistula (tract) sometimes remains behind.
Do I need surgery?
If you decide not to have surgery, you may continue to have episodes of swelling and pain; followed by either spontaneous drainage and relief, and/or needing drainage in the doctor's office.
Over time, the infection can begin to spread in different directions. Putting off surgery can result in a more extensive operation later. There have been several reported cases of a fistula turning into cancer after decades of lying silent.
IMPORTANT TIP: The ideal bowel movement comes the moment you sit, without pain, straining or bleeding. It's completed within seconds, and is easy to clean.
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