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Health A-Z

Medical Content Created by the Faculty of the
Harvard Medical School

Symptoms

Although all four anal disorders cause some type of anal discomfort or pain, other symptoms vary, depending on the specific anal problem.

For anal fissure, symptoms may include:

  • Pain in the anal area, often described as sharp, searing or burning, and usually triggered by a bowel movement

  • Mild rectal bleeding, typically a small amount of bright red blood with a bowel movement or on the toilet paper.

For anal abscess, symptoms include:

  • A firm, tender mass or swelling in or around the anal area, which may become large

  • Occastionally fever, chills and a generally sick feeling.

For an anal fistula, signs and symptoms may include:

  • Mild pain around the anus, centered in an area where an old anal abscess has either drained spontaneously, or has been opened surgically by a doctor

  • Persistent drainage of blood, pus or foul-smelling mucus from the anal area.

  • Symptoms of a recurrent anal abscess (see above), which may develop if the external opening of the fistula becomes clogged and the old abscess reactivates.

For thrombosis of an external hemorrhoid, the signs and symptoms include:

  • A firm and usually quite painful swelling at the anal orifice

  • Occasionally bloody discharge, if the surface of the hemorrhoid breaks down.

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From Health A-Z, Harvard Health Publications. Copyright 2007 by the President and Fellows of Harvard College. All rights reserved. Written permission is required to reproduce, in any manner, in whole or in part, the material contained herein. To make a reprint request, contact Harvard Health Publications. Used with permission of StayWell.

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