Perianal/perirectal abscess and the chronic form of an abscess, a fistula (a tunnel under the skin that produces infected drainage) are common conditions. Sometimes they are the result of inflammatory bowel disease, but more often they’re not the result of any concerning underlying condition. Painful swelling around the anus is a signal that you may have developed an abscess, and you should seek immediate medical attention. Jeffrey Sternberg, MD, specializes in treating diseases of the colon and gastrointestinal tract. For expert care, call The Sternberg Clinic in San Francisco, or book an appointment online today.


What is an perianal abscess?

Perianal abscess is an infection that begins in a mucus-producing gland inside of the anus and borrows its way out towards the surface of the perianal skin. If you are experiencing painful swelling or something like a boil in your rectal area, you may have an abscess.


What causes a perinanal abscess?

Perianal abscess occur in many people with no obvious risk factors. Certain factors however may increase one’s chance of developing an abscess and that abscess becoming more serious. These factors are:

  • Crohn’s disease
  • Diabetes
  • Being on steroids or other immunosuppressive agents


What is a fistula?

A fistula is a tunnel from inside the anal canal to the skin just outside the anus which drains infected fluid.  It is the result of a perianal abscess. About half of people with an abscess develop a fistula. A fistula can cause ongoing drainage when it breaks through the skin, and if the skin closes around the area, you are more likely to develop another abscess.


What is the treatment for an anal abscess or fistula?

Dr. Sternberg numbs the area and drains the pus from the abscess right in the office. This shouldn’t be a terrible experience and you will feel better almost immediately.  Dr. Sternberg may prescribe an antibiotic to aid in treating your infection. You should be able to get back to your normal activities within a few days.

If you suspect you have an abscess, you should seek immediate medical attention; a small abscess that can be treated in the office can become more complicated the longer it’s left untreated. Call The Sternberg Clinic or make an appointment online today.

The Sternberg Clinic
77 Van Ness Avenue, Suite 300
Civic Center, Hayes Valley

San Francisco, CA 94102
Phone: 415-821-8000
Office Hours

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