4 Different Types of Anal Abcesses

Jan 19, 2023

4 Different Types of Anal Abcesses

Abscesses anywhere in the human body can be quite painful, which is certainly true when they form in and around your rectum and/or anus. Determining the type of abscess is our first step toward getting you on the road to relief.

An abscess is the result of an infection. These painful pus pockets can develop almost anywhere in your body, including in and around your anus and rectum.

To help you determine whether your discomfort and symptoms stem from an anal abscess, the skilled team of colorectal experts at Fairfax Colon & Rectal Surgery pulled together the following information, including the different types of abscesses. More importantly, we review why prompt treatment of anal abscesses is key for preventing the painful infection from causing more problems.

Anal abscesses 101

An abscess results from a “trapped infection,” which leads to a pocket of pus. In the case of anal abscesses, 90% of these infections are caused by a clogged anal gland.

Your anus is about two inches long, and it's the bottommost part of your lower digestive tract, where stool makes its final exit. Your anus contains mucus glands that lubricate the lining of the muscles and sphincters to facilitate the passage of the stool.

When one of these glands gets clogged with bacteria and/or fecal matter, an infection can ensue and lead to an abscess.

Symptoms of an anal abscess

The symptoms of an anal abscess typically include:

  • Pain
  • Swelling
  • Skin irritation or redness
  • Anal discharge
  • Fever
  • Rectal bleeding

Some symptoms are shared with other conditions, such as fistulas and hemorrhoids, so coming to us for a diagnosis is important. A fever, however, is one thing that separates an anal abscess from other conditions, and it's a symptom you should never ignore.

Types of anal abscesses

When we discuss different types of anal abscesses, we're referring to the infection's location and pus pocket. In general, there are four different locations where abscesses can form in your anus, rectum, and perineal area:

  1. Perianal abscess — the most common type of abscess
  2. Ischioanal abscess
  3. Intersphincteric abscess
  4. Supralevator abscess — the least common type of abscess

It would be difficult for us to describe the exact locations here, and this detail is more our concern as it dictates, to some extent, how we treat the problem. For your purposes, you just want to put an end to the infection and the discomfort no matter where it’s located.

Treating your anal abscess

If we diagnose an anal abscess, our first step is draining the pus pocket, which will bring you instant relief. Draining a perianal abscess near your skin's surface is easier than a supralevator abscess, which is located deeper in your tissues, but both are perfectly accessible and treatable.

After we drain the abscess, we give you instructions for at-home care, such as using a sitz bath for a few days to help soothe the area. We suggest a stool softener to help bowel movements go through more smoothly. We rarely prescribe antibiotics for an anal abscess, but sometimes do if you have a pre-existing health condition that makes you more susceptible to infection.

For expert diagnosis and treatment of your anal abscess, please contact one of our offices in Fairfax, Fair Oaks, Alexandria, Gainesville, Woodbridge, or Lansdowne, Virginia.