Curing That Itch You Can’t Scratch In Public

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Mayo Clinic Q and A: Treating persistent anal itching

| By Liza Torborg, Aug 16, 2019

| Dear Mayo Clinic: I’ve had anal itching for some time. It’s an embarrassing topic that I’m reluctant to bring up with my doctor. Do you have any self-care tips?

Answer: Anal itching is an intense itching inside and around the opening of the anus. It’s potentially embarrassing, but bringing it up with your health care provider is recommended, especially if it has become persistent. That’s because there are a number of possible causes with specific treatments that likely will help. These causes include hemorrhoids, anal fissures, skin diseases, infections, fecal seepage and ongoing diarrhea. At the most serious end of the spectrum, cancer occasionally can cause these symptoms.

Less serious causes of anal itching, also called pruritis ani, may include dry skin, irritation from wiping too hard and too often, use of soaps or frequent cleaning of the area, and excess moisture due to sweating.

When no specific cause of anal itching is found, self-care steps successfully eliminate itching about 90% of the time. The first step is to gently clean the area with water and a mild, fragrance-free soap after each bowel movement. This may involve a quick shower, or using a soft washcloth or squeeze bottle. Avoid scrubbing, or using moist towelettes or wipes, abrasive cloths, or moist toilet paper.

Next, pat the area dry with a cloth, or dry the area with a hair dryer on the fan-only setting. Using the heat setting could further irritate this delicate area.

Wear nonconstricting cotton underwear to keep the area cool and dry. Apply zinc oxide or petroleum jelly to the anal area to provide a moisture barrier. If necessary, a cream of 1% hydrocortisone applied two to three times a day can be used for a week or two to stop itching.

Finally, avoid scratching the area as much as possible to minimize further irritation. It may even be necessary to wear cotton gloves to bed so that you don’t unknowingly scratch the area while sleeping.

Although anal itching may be a topic that’s uncomfortable to bring up to your health care provider, it is a common condition, and there are treatments that can give you some relief once the cause of the itching is determined. (adapted from Mayo Clinic Health Letter) — Dr. Stephanie Hansel, Gastroenterology, Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minnesota SOURCE. 


  • After using the toilet, use toilet paper as normal.
  • Shuffle over to the sink and turn the faucet to a medium flow with lukewarm water.
  • Wet the finger tips of one hand and gently shake excess water into the sink.
  • Put ONE DROP of liquid soap on the tip your index finger, then use your thumb to spread it across all fingertips on that hand.
  • Clean the area using one fingertip at a time; use your other hand to adjust the faucet as needed.
  • Gently rinse each finger tip under the faucet, being careful not to splash about.
  • Clean the area one more time with clean fingertips, and again rinse fingertips carefully.
  • Wash hands and and sink thoroughly.
  • Dry off with t.p, then wash your hands one last time.


  • In the shower, wash the region in question with hair conditioner, which is much more gentle than soap.
  • If the area is particularly sensitive, apply a thin coat of petroleum jelly after showering.