Let’s not be coy here: Everyone has a butthole—and sometimes, buttholes get itchy.
But before I dig into why your butthole gets itchy, let’s clarify one thing: I’m talking about your itchy anus in particular—not your entire butt. (It’s kind of an important distinction, says Dr. Samantha Nazareth, a double board-certified gastroenterologist in New York City.)
The itching can occur inside the anus or the perianal skin (the skin surrounding the anal opening), and these areas can be affected by a range of different issues.
So what exactly is going on down there? Here are a few reasons you’re feeling extra itchy, plus how to get to the bottom of your, uh, bottom issues.
1. You’re wiping all wrong.
Nazareth always asks her patients about their bathroom hygiene habits. Are you an aggressive wiper? Do you not feel clean unless you use wet wipes? “Too many of us are wiping ourselves to death with toilet paper and then using wet wipes afterward,” says Nazareth. Those practices are bound to cause irritation (your skin is super sensitive down there!).
On the flip side, you might not be wiping enough—leftover poop in the anal area, along with extra moisture, is also recipe for irritation, says Nazareth.
When it comes to finding a happy medium for your butt-wiping, Nazareth has some advice: “Ideally, if you’re at home, the best way is going into the tub or use a shower head to clean the area with force of the water. No soap needed. “Then pat dry the area. It’s the best way short of using a bidet.” If you’re out and about when nature calls, she recommends using a little warm water on the TP and, again, going for the pat-dry afterward.
READ MORE: Why Does My Butt Hurt So Much?
2. You have haemorrhoids.
Haemorrhoids are swollen, inflamed blood vessels around your anus or in your lower rectum, according to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK). Typically, external haemorrhoids—ones that form under the skin and around the anus—are the cause for itching, versus internal haemorrhoids, which form in the lining of the anus and lower rectum.
Constipation (a.k.a., difficulty passing bowel movements) is often the cause of haemorrhoids—you know, from the pushing and extra time spent on the toilet. “I often suggest the Squatty Potty to my haemorrhoids patients,” says Nazareth, which can help the passage of bowel movements. “Not everyone who has haemorrhoids has itchiness problems. You’re just trying to make sure you’re not aggravating them.” Another smart tip to avoid flare-ups? Getting enough fibre in your diet to make things flow a little more…smoothly.
3. You might have pinworms.
Okay, this is pretty unlikely, but it’s still possible. Pinworms are small parasites that can live in your colon and rectum, per the U.S. National Library of Medicine (NLM). They’re spread by the faecal-oral route (yes, that’s exactly what it sounds like) either directly or indirectly (through contaminated clothing, bedding, food, etc.).
This infection is most common in children, and many people who are infected don’t have symptoms at all. If you have symptoms, they’re most commonly intense anal (or vaginal) itching that can interfere with daily life. But here’s the catch:”You won’t be able to diagnose this at home,” says Nazareth. “You must get checked by a doctor via a stool sample.” As for treatment, mild infections can go away on their own, but medication is sometimes needed, per the NLM.
4. You have a yeast infection
Yep, these can happen anywhere—not just in your vagina. “It happens a lot when the weather is really warm and humid outside,” says Nazareth. That’s because it allows a fungus called candida (the scientific name for yeast) to grow at a quicker rate than usual, according to the NLM. Add a rigorous workout—and rocking that same sweating gear all day—to the mix, and you’ve made a prime environment for a yeast infection.
Your best defence is to get out of those sweat-soaked clothes and shower post-workout. Already have a yeast infection that brought on anal itching? Nazareth suggests opting for an anti-fungal ointment or wearing loose clothing at home. “Ideally, don’t wear underwear at all and choose some loose-fitting pants to let things air out in their ‘natural’ state.”
5. You might have—gulp!—scabies.
This is another rare one, but you might as well know what scabies are, right? They’re a parasite—like pinworms—that burrow into the outer layer of your skin and lay eggs there, says Nazareth. But scabies will itch everywhere, not just your butt. So, yay?
The symptoms (a.k.a., crazy itchiness and sores) can take as long as four to eight weeks to show up. And while scabies can be treated with medication for your skin, your home will need to be treated as well.
6. You have a skin irritation.
Have you recently started using a new bath product? An allergic irritation to a fragrance or other product could be the culprit, says Nazareth. You can also get other itchy skin disorders, like psoriasis (a buildup of skin cells that causes red, itchy patches) or eczema (itchy, inflamed scales on the skin) down there, too.
If you suspect either of these conditions, it’s best to see your dermatologist (yes, even for your backside) to find the best treatment for you (oral medications, steroid creams, or light therapy).
7. You might (but likely don’t) have anal cancer.
Okay, so anal itching does not automatically mean you have anal cancer. But, rarely, anal itching can be a symptom of cancer—especially if it’s accompanied by bleeding, says Nazareth, in which case, you should see your doctor. While it’s likely something benign, like haemorrhoids, Nazareth says it’s still wise to get the all-clear from your doc.
This article was originally published on www.womenshealthmag.com