Information About Anal Stenosis
Anal stenosis, which is a narrowing of the anal canal that makes it difficult to pass stool, can lead to serious complications if left untreated. Also referred to as anal stricture, this condition occurs when the muscles in the anus – which expand and contract to regulate the passage of fecal material – narrow. In the majority of cases, anal stenosis is linked to scar tissue formation, which can occur after trauma or hemorrhoid surgery. Other causes can include congenital malformation, venereal disease, and rectal infection. This condition most often affects the internal (involuntary) sphincter instead of the external sphincter, which a person can control.
The symptoms of anal stenosis might at first seem minor but can worsen with time. They include constipation, pain during bowel movements, stools that are narrow and break apart like pellets, and bright red blood in the toilet after a bowel movement. Crohn’s disease, an inflammatory bowel disease, can also produce symptoms that mimic those of anal stenosis.
When the symptoms of anal stenosis persist, they are usually a result of one or more of the following causes:
- Constipation or straining during bowel movements
- Anal or rectal tears
- Complications from a surgical procedure, such as a hemorrhoidectomy
- Irritation from constant diarrhea
- Rectal infection
It’s important to understand that these symptoms themselves don’t result in anal stenosis, but the buildup of scar tissue they produce in the anal canal can. Scar tissue is not as flexible as healthy muscle tissue, and if it builds up it can restrict the anal canal.
The non-surgical treatment options for anal stenosis are limited, though fiber supplements, stool softeners, emollient laxatives, or a high-fiber diet may help soften stools so they pass more easily. Common surgical options include an anoplasty, the surgical reconstruction of the anus, or a sphincterotomy, which involves the cutting of the internal sphincter muscle to reduce tension.
In 2020-21, Tampa General Hospital was recognized as one of America's Best Hospitals in Gastroenterology & GI Surgery, earning the #24 spot in the list, and was highest-ranked in Florida for the specialty by U.S. News & World Report. If you are experiencing symptoms of anal stenosis, Tampa General Hospital’s Physician Finder can help you find a gastroenterologist who can diagnose and treat your anal and rectal conditions. Or, you can call 1-800-833-3627.