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Br J Surg. 1999 Oct;86(10):1337-40.

Treatment of persistent pruritus ani in a combined colorectal and dermatological clinic.

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Departments of Colorectal Surgery and Dermatology, St Peter's Hospital, Ashford, UK.



Pruritus ani is a common and socially embarrassing condition which is often poorly managed. It is often classified as idiopathic where the symptoms are usually transitory or secondary when a more persistent itch is experienced. The aim of this study was to establish the cause of pruritus ani in a group of patients referred to a combined colorectal and dermatological clinic, and to determine the most appropriate treatment.


Forty consecutive patients with pruritus ani were referred over a 6-month period from either the general practitioner or another hospital consultant to a combined colorectal and dermatological clinic. They were assessed by history, completion of a general health questionnaire, full examination of the skin, digital rectal examination, proctoscopy, sigmoidoscopy and patch testing. Patients were treated according to clinical findings at assessment.


Thirty-four patients had a recognizable dermatosis, three had superficial perianal fissuring and three had a normal perineum; two required surgical intervention. Eighteen patients had a positive reaction when patch tested. All patients have shown an improvement or complete resolution of symptoms with treatment.


This series has shown that the majority of patients presenting with pruritus ani have a dermatosis as the underlying cause of their symptoms and that many of them have developed contact sensitivities to the various topical medications used. These findings suggest that referral to a dermatologist in the first instance may be more appropriate.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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