Anal abscess/perianal abscess/ischiorectal abscess

An abscess is a collection of pus (white blood cells).  Abscesses are painful because the pus is under pressure.  The most common cause of abscesses in the anorectal area are infected fissures, and infected anal glands.  We have anal glands just as dogs and skunks have anal glands.  Ours are not very well-developed.  An infection within an anal gland can lead to an abscess.  Anal glands may become infected after a bout of diarrhea, but often we don’t know why it happens.

Abscesses in the anorectal area are usually small (perianal abscess – a cm or two), but they can occasionally be very large (ischiorectal abscess – the size of a large grapefruit).  Abscesses can vary in significance from a minor problem to a life-threatening issue.  Very small abscesses may be managed with antibiotics alone, but most will require an incision or needle to drain the pus out, often done as an emergency procedure to stabilize a patient who is ill or in a lot of pain.  The problem with large abscesses is that antibiotics cannot get into them and once an abscess reaches a certain size, the body cannot fight against them.  Draining an abscess restores the body’s ability to try to heal the area.  Adequate drainage may make antibiotics unnecessary, but they are often added if there is surrounding inflammation.  Definitive surgery to fix the underlying problem will often be required at a later date when the patient is well.

© Pezim Clinic, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada