Anal stenosis can be a serious health concern that may have a significant impact on a person’s overall well-being. Understanding the causes and signs of anal stenosis and receiving early treatment can help people avoid complications.
Also referred to as anal stricture or rectal stricture, anal stenosis is a narrowing of the anal canal that makes it very hard to pass stool. It happens when the muscles of the anus, which normally expand and contract to assist passage of stools, suddenly become narrow.
The anal canal is located just before the anal sphincter. The anal sphincter is a part of the body that holds a seal that opens to discharge waste from the body. There are two anal sphincter muscles, internal and external. The internal sphincter is what we call an involuntary muscle. In other words, you can’t control it.
The external sphincter is wrapped around the internal sphincter muscle. This is the muscle that we squeeze when we feel the urge to go to the bathroom but aren’t anywhere near a toilet. It is a voluntary muscle; a muscle we do have control over.
We have addressed the question, what is anal stenosis? Now, it is important to get a sense of how someone gets this condition. There are several anal stenosis causes, including those listed here:
Other possible causes include congenital deformity, rectal infection, rectal trauma, intestinal malabsorption, weak blood vessels, radiation therapy, and venereal disease.
Anal stenosis symptoms vary slightly from one person to another, but generally, constipation will occur since it’s difficult to pass stool. Anal stricture symptoms can also include the following:
Also read: Bowel movements: How often should you poop?
Anal stenosis can be diagnosed as mild, moderate, or severe. Insertion of an anal dilator is possible with mild or even moderate cases but is not in severe situations. In all cases, a physical examination confirms the diagnosis, although the doctor will pay particular attention to any symptoms the patient describes, including constipation, abdominal pain, and bloody stools.
The examination will include a visual review of the anal canal and surrounding skin, as well as a digital rectal test. There are some situations where it’s too painful for the patient to go through an examination of the anal canal, so anesthesia will be used.
Some doctors may choose to do an anorectal manometry, which is a test that measures the pressures of the anal sphincter muscles, the sensation of the rectum, as well as reflexes that are used for normal bowel movements. During the test, a small balloon attached to a catheter-like tool may be inflated in the rectum and a machine connected at the other end of the catheter produces the measurements.
Anal stenosis treatment is usually based on the cause and severity of the condition. The following covers the most common treatment methods, including non-operative management.
A lot of people experience constipation and fissures from time-to-time but it doesn’t mean they have anal stenosis. If you ever have a hard time passing stool, are in pain, or see blood in your stool or on your toilet paper, you should seek medical attention.
In the majority of cases, complications such as infection and bowel disease are ruled out and the doctor is able to identify the cause. Once a cause is determined, the doctor can guide you to treatment that will protect not only your bowel, but also your overall health.
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