Itching for an answer

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18 Dec 2014

Jason from the Sunshine Coast writes:

I always seem to have an itchy bum. I’ve been screened for STIs and had a colonoscopy and all is fine — so what could it be and what should I do?

Dr Louise replies: 

Hi Jason, this is a common complaint and can be quite annoying, especially if the urge to itch happens in public! Usually the itch is because of irritation around the anus and surrounding skin. There are a number of things that may aggravate it. Certainly in hot weather, or when you have been exercising and sweating more, it may be worse and then actually scratching the skin can cause damage to the area and make things worse still.

If you are prone to skin conditions such as eczema or psoriasis then this may be causing the itch. It is usually best to tell your doctor about your symptoms and have an examination to check for skin conditions, ulcerations or evidence of infection. Some general tips that might help include: try to stop scratching! Sounds difficult, but cut finger nails short and resist the urge to scratch. Avoid soaps, powder and perfumed toilet tissue. Sometimes there can be a contact dermatitis due to the additives or dyes in the toilet paper that can cause further irritation.

Excessive showering and washing of the genital area can reduce the natural oils from this area and make the skin more prone to inflammation and infection. Aqueous creams can be used in moderation as an alternative to soap. After washing, avoid vigorous drying: gently pat the area dry or use a hairdryer to dry the area. 

A healthy diet will assist with regular bowel movements; clean gently after bowel movements, using cotton wool rather than toilet paper. Before using any topical creams, seek medical advice and always think about having a regular test for sexuallytransmissible infections as many STIs may not have any discernible symptoms.