11 Reasons You Might Have an Itchy Butt—and How To Treat It

Skin conditions, digestive issues, and chronic diseases are all potential culprits for this common and uncomfortable problem.

It can be uncomfortable to find that you're experiencing itchiness around your anal area—one of the most private and difficult-to-talk-about places on your body.

However, anal itchiness is a common problem: It's known as pruritus ani, the technical term for irritation around the anus that causes the desire to scratch.

If you're experiencing an itchy butt, the first thing to know is that it's most likely a symptom of another issue—not a disease or condition in itself. And because itching can lead to scratching, tiny cuts, pain, and swelling, it's important to know what's causing the itching to happen.

Specifically, anal itching may occur due to a number of other conditions, such as:

  • Skin conditions
  • Infections
  • Food and clothing irritants
  • Chronic health conditions

Here is more information about these and other common causes of itchy butt and how you can find relief.

Hygiene Issues

Itching in the perianal region (around the anus) often depends on how you wipe after a bowel movement. Not wiping well enough can leave behind fecal matter and moisture, said Brian Kim, MD, Vice Chair of Research at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai.

On the other hand, too much wiping—or the wrong kind of wiping—can also lead to irritation and itching. Vigorous scrubbing, soap (especially scented), and pre-moistened wipes should all be avoided as they can cause more irritation.

Therefore, it is best to use unscented toilet paper moistened with warm water when wiping after a bowel movement. Additionally, when washing your butt, use only warm water. Keep the area dry by lightly patting it with a towel.

Skin Conditions That Might Cause an Itchy Butt

A few chronic skin conditions can cause inflammation and itching anywhere on the body, including the perianal region.

Psoriasis

Psoriasis causes itchy red patches and silvery, flaky scales to form on the skin. It is responsible for about 5% to 8% of anal itching cases. And while psoriasis can't be cured, a dermatologist can help keep it under control by prescribing a brief course of topical steroids and long-term doses of other topical medications.

Anal Eczema

Anal eczema is an inflammatory disease that can be treated with steroids or other anti-itch ointments or creams. Anal eczema is likely to have an underlying or secondary disease. Since the skin on the butt is more sensitive, the pain and itchiness can be more severe than other kinds of eczema.

Lichen Sclerosus

Lichen sclerosus is another condition that can cause anal irritation. This condition causes white, wrinkled skin changes in the labia and perianal region. Additionally, lichen sclerosus typically responds to a six-to-eight week course of topical steroids. If left untreated, these lesions can progress into skin cancer, so they should be biopsied if they don't respond to treatment.

Contact Dermatitis

Allergies can also trigger eczema-like rashes, Dr. Kim said. You may, for example, be allergic to the laundry detergent you use to wash your clothes.

"If itching starts suddenly out of the blue, one of the first things you should ask is whether you could be using or wearing something that's causing irritation in that area," Dr. Kim added.

Common causes of contact dermatitis are soap, detergent, perfume, latex, fragrances, preservatives, and certain foods. Moist wipes, condoms, and lubricants may also cause contact dermatitis.

Clothing

Anal itching is sometimes associated with tight clothing or materials that don't breathe well. "We know that sweat can cause irritation anywhere on the body with prolonged exposure, and in this area especially, it can cause a lot of itching or even a yeast infection," Dr. Kim said.

Therefore, because sweaty environments can worsen the irritation, it's important to wear loose-fitting clothing that allows air circulation.

Friction from clothing can also cause hair follicles to get inflamed and infected—a condition called folliculitis—that looks like tiny red bumps or pimples. Folliculitis can occur all over the body, including on (and in) your butt.

Food Irritants

What you eat can affect how your butt feels. "Maybe you have an unusual diet—like it's very acidic, or you eat a lot of a certain irritant," Dr. Kim said. "A lot of people believe that making dietary adjustments can improve itching down there."

Certain foods can also contribute to diarrhea or anal leakage, making it more challenging to wipe thoroughly and causing irritation and itching. The following foods have been associated with anal itching:

  • Caffeine (including coffee, tea, and chocolate)
  • Carbonated beverages
  • Citrus fruits and vegetables
  • Energy drinks
  • Nuts
  • Refined carbohydrates
  • Spicy or acidic foods

However, adding more fiber to your diet can be beneficial in preventing anal leakage.

Pinworms

Pinworms are the most common type of worm infection in the United States. People get infected through person-to-person contact or by touching a surface contaminated with pinworm eggs.

Children can unknowingly touch a contaminated surface, put their fingers in their mouths, and swallow the pinworm eggs. The eggs then travel through the digestive tract and eventually migrate to the perianal area, causing itching and possibly infection.

The parasites are visible in an infected person's feces. To diagnose pinworms in children, healthcare providers will use clear cellophane tape and place it on the skin around the child's anus. The tape is then examined to identify pinworm eggs.

The infection mainly occurs in babies and young children; it can, however, spread to their caregivers and other adults. Still, pinworms can be eliminated with two doses of oral medication (available over-the-counter or by prescription), given two weeks apart to prevent reinfection.

Hemorrhoids or Anal Fissures

If your chronic itch gets worse or becomes painful when you have a bowel movement, it could be hemorrhoids or anal fissures.

Hemorrhoids are caused by swollen veins in the anus, while anal fissures are tiny tears in the surrounding skin tissue—though they are sometimes mistaken for hemorrhoids. Both can cause tiny blood spots on your toilet paper, although you should see a healthcare provider if you notice significant blood in your stool.

"Hemorrhoids are actually very common, and a lot of people don't even know they have them," Dr. Kim said. "They just have itching down there, and they don't know why." Anal fissures are also common, especially in infants, older adults, and people soon after childbirth.

Eating more fiber, staying hydrated, and finding other ways to relieve constipation and soften your stool can improve both conditions. Over-the-counter hydrocortisone cream can also treat hemorrhoids.

Infections

Sometimes anal itching can be the result of an infection.

Yeast Infections

Yeast infections can also occur in the perianal region—especially in people with compromised immune systems or who are taking antibiotics. Fungal infections make up about 40% of secondary infectious anal itch cases—most of which are caused by yeast.

Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs)

Anal itching can also be a symptom of sexually transmitted infections (STIs), including gonorrhea, herpes, and anal warts caused by the human papillomavirus (HPV). Symptoms usually occur around the anus when a person has participated in anal sex.

There are treatments available for all STIs, and those treatments will vary. For example, anti-viral medication can help keep herpes under control, while treating anal warts may require topical creams, cryotherapy, or even surgery.

Scabies

Scabies is a common skin condition caused by a tiny bug called the human itch mite. It's very contagious and requires a prescription medication to treat. Scabies can result in an itchy rash and sores all over the body—including around the anus and genitals.

On the other hand, it's probably not scabies if you only have itching in the perianal area. Scabies typically presents on the wrist, ankle, armpit, and between fingers or toes.

"If you're really looking for a specific cause of isolated anal itching, it's most likely something else," Dr. Kim said.

Chronic and Systemic Diseases That May Be the Cause of an Itchy Butt

Certain long-term health conditions can contribute to anal itching and inflammation. For example, diabetes and autoimmune diseases can make people more vulnerable to bacterial or fungal infections.

The condition can also appear alongside liver disease, chronic renal failure, and leukemia. Having vitamin or mineral deficiencies have been associated with anal itching as well. Some examples include iron as well as vitamin A and D deficiencies.

Some digestive disorders are included too. These types of conditions, like Crohn's disease, can cause diarrhea and stool leakage, which can irritate the skin around the anus.

Nerve Damage

"We have some suspicion that some of this type of itching is neurologic," Dr. Kim said. "As patients get older, a lot of them have lower back injuries, and many people probably have minor damage to the nerves coming out of their spinal cords."

These problems can cause twinges of pain or a nagging itch in the area around the buttocks and anus, Dr. Kim added. Also, this type of itch typically does not present with any rash or lesion.

Treatment for this type of nerve damage varies, Dr. Kim said, but may include physical therapy, surgery, or behavior modification.

Anal Cancer

Having an itchy butt isn't usually a reason to jump to scary conclusions. But rarely, it can be a sign of cancer.

Both Paget's and Bowen's diseases are forms of skin cancer that attack the surface layer of the skin. Up to half of the people with Paget's or Bowen's disease experience anal itching. However, both diseases are rare and require a biopsy for diagnosis.

What To Do if Anal Itching Occurs

Because the causes of anal itching are so broad, it can be hard to know where to start. Dr. Kim said that talking to a healthcare provider is always a good option. You could also check with a dermatologist if you think your problem is more skin-related or a gastroenterologist if it seems more digestive.

Whatever you do, don't suffer in silence. "This type of itching can be so debilitating; I've had patients who were thinking about quitting their jobs," Dr. Kim said. "And any type of scratching can be embarrassing, but scratching in that area is even more socially unacceptable."

A chronic itch can be extremely frustrating, especially if you don't know the root cause. Fortunately, Dr. Kim said, many factors contributing to anal itching can be identified and treated, so people can get back to living their lives without distraction or irritation.

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Sources
Health.com uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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