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The Potential Causes of a Rectal Fistula

If you want to understand the causes of a rectal fistula, it’s important to learn as many details as possible about this often chronic condition. Also commonly referred to as an anal fistula, a rectal fistula is a narrow cavity stretching between the bowel and the skin near the anus. This often results in a painful external opening in the skin.

One of the most common causes of an anal fistula is an abscess which has developed because of an infection in an anal gland. When an anal gland becomes clogged with bacteria, fecal matter, or foreign matter, it can fill with pus and cause the formation of a fistula. If an anal abscess is not treated promptly or doesn’t heal completely, a fistula will often remain after the abscess has been drained.

Other less common causes of a rectal fistula can include:

  • Trauma to the rectal area
  • Sexually transmitted infections
  • Tuberculosis
  • Intestinal diseases such as Crohn’s disease and diverticulitis
  • Anorectal cancer
  • HIV
  • Tumors

In most cases, rectal fistulas do not heal on their own or through treatment with medications, and surgery is almost always necessary. One of the most successful surgical procedures used to treat a rectal fistula is a fistulotomy, in which the entire length of the fistula is cut open to allow for healing and the formation of a flat scar.

At Tampa General Hospital’s Endoscopy Center, our physicians and surgeons can help patients determine the causes of and diagnose a rectal fistula, or any other anorectal condition, and design a full treatment plan for the rectal fistula. Our commitment to providing expert care helped us to be named one of America’s Best Hospitals in Gastroenterology & GI Surgery in 2017-18 by U.S. News & World Report.  If you would like to find a gastroenterologist, use Tampa General Hospital’s Physician Finder or call 1-800-833-3627.