Why Scratching is Bad for your Itchy Anus

We all remember our parents saying when we were children: Don’t scratch you’ll make it worse! But sometimes the urge to give that embarrassing itch a good old fashioned and rigorous scratch is just too great.

Let’s face it, we’ve all done it. The problem is that, while the odd scratch here and there can do little harm, the more you do it the more damage is done. And that can lead to more problems further down the line.

Anatomy of an itch

People scratch an itchy anus because it brings temporary relief. In truth, it can be one of the most wonderful experiences in life if you’ve had that persistent itch, resisted scratching and then succumbed to the temptation.

Pruritus usually starts with some external stimulus such as a bug bite or an allergic reaction to a chemical or food. An itch is essentially a defensive thing that our body uses to warn of some potential harm. Receptors in the skin begin to pump signals into your spinal cord that travel up to your brain where they register as a particular sensation. It’s thought that scratching causes pain and diverts the brains attention away from the itch for a while. That’s why it provides initial relief.

Persistent scratching damages sensitive skin

The more you scratch that anal itch the more likely you are going to cause damage. This can lead to a few other problems if it carries on over time.

  • Lichenification: This is where the healed skin becomes thick and leathery.
  • Ulceration: The skin becomes raw and breaks down, often bleeding.
  • Excoriation: The top layer of skin is rubbed away leaving the nerve ends exposed and causing pain as well as bleeding.

All this can lead to further infection that further exacerbates the problem. The anal area is a prime area for things like bacterial and fungal infections because it is warm and moist. The problem is that heavy scratching of the anal area causes a vicious circle that gets gradually worse over a fairly short period of time.

Our tips for resisting the urge to scratch

  • It helps to clean your anal area with a moist towel or toilet paper when you have had a bowel movement.
  • Try to keep the area dry with talc.
  • Use a soothing anal cream that will help with the repair of the damaged area and keep the anus clear of things like bacterial and fungal infections.
  • Caught out in the office? Resist the urge to scratch but instead pop to the loos and administer some anal cream to take the edge off that itchy bum.
  • If you suffer from an itchy bum at night then rather than lie in bed, scratching away, make sure you get up and clean the area concerned.

Of course, we all know it’s wrong to scratch that embarrassing itch, even if it is really tempting. It’s much better to administer something like a soothing cream than to get into bad and potentially damaging habits. And don’t forget, if your symptoms persist, please make an appointment with your GP.

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