Anal Abscess

An anal abscess is a painful condition in which a collection of pus develops near the anus. Most anal abscesses are a result of infection from small anal glands.

The most common type of abscess appears as a painful boil-like swelling near the anus. It may be red in color and warm to the touch. Anal abscesses located in deeper tissue are less common and may be less visible.

Surgical incision and drainage is the most common treatment for all types of anal abscesses and is usually successful. Prompt surgical drainage is important, preferably before the abscess erupts. Superficial anal abscesses can be drained in our office using a local anesthetic. Large or deeper anal abscesses may require drainage in the operating room.

After an abscess has been drained, patients have a 25-40 percent chance of developing a complication called an anal fistula. The only treatment for a fistula is surgery.

Superficial anal abscesses are often associated with:
  • Pain, which is usually constant, throbbing, and worse when sitting down
  • Skin irritation around the anus, including swelling, redness, and tenderness
  • Discharge of pus
  • Pain associated with bowel movements
Deeper anal abscesses may cause less pain, but are often associated with fever, chills and malaise. Sometimes, fever is the only symptom of deep anal abscesses.

Usually, a clinical evaluation – including a digital rectal exam – is sufficient to diagnose an anal abscess. Some patients may require additional tests to screen for infections, Crohn’s disease, diverticulitis and rectal cancer.