You may have questions about what a fistula is, why you have it, and how to treat it. Visit the links below to learn more about fistulas.
A fistula is an abnormal passageway connecting two organs or vessels that aren't normally connected. The most common type of fistula is around the anus.
It is believed that there are glands within the anus that produce fluid. Sometimes these glands can become blocked and infected, causing an abscess. Fistulas are most commonly caused by this condition, although other conditions such as Crohn's disease, sexually transmitted diseases, or cancer can sometimes cause fistulas as well.
Infections and excess fluid can also cause skin irritation due to fistulas. Pain, abscesses, foul-smelling discharge, and painful bowel movements are all common symptoms of fistulas.
If left untreated, fistulas can cause serious complications, which can be extremely uncomfortable. Occasionally, fistulas can result in a bacteria infection, which may cause sepsis, a dangerous disease that can cause low blood pressure, organ damage, and even death. As a result, more serious complications are unlikely to occur with fistulas because there are many treatments available.
A fistula can cause abdominal pain, discharge, changes in bowel habits, severe diarrhea. You should consult your doctor right away if you notice any of these symptoms. As the doctor can see an external fistula, it is relatively easy to diagnose. Any discharge that occurs may be sent to a laboratory for analysis, and blood tests may be performed to confirm the diagnosis.
In cases of internal fistulas, diagnosis can be more challenging. Your doctor may perform an endoscope to inspect inside, ultrasounds, CT scans, or X-rays to locate the fistula.
Fistulas are very rare signs of cancer. However, if a fistula is not treated for a long time, it may become cancerous. Radiation therapy may also result in a fistula.
Fistulas can sometimes close and reopen. Typically, fistulas don't heal without treatment.
How Is a Fistula Treated
It is possible to treat a fistula in different ways, depending on how severe it is. In the case of a small fistula, your doctor may perform an in-office procedure, such as a fistulotomy, to open the fistula and drain it. Your doctor may also use stitches to seal the fistula so that it can heal.
Surgical closure of larger fistulas may be necessary, and after surgery, pain relievers, antibiotics, and stool softeners may be prescribed to ease bowel movements.
If the fistula is small, it may take just a few days or weeks to heal, but for larger fistulas, additional surgery may be needed. Keep the area clean, especially after bowel movements. Moist pads can help you do this. Warm baths are also soothing, and can help you keep the area clean as well.
You should not wait to seek treatment if you have symptoms of a fistula. Treatment may be easier than you think, and treating it is always better than leaving it untreated.