Anal abscess

An anal abscess is a painful pool of infected liquid (pus) near your back passage (rectum) or bottom (anus). An anal abscess is sometimes referred to as a perianal abscess and is also known as an anorectal abscess.

By Wallace Health I Medically reviewed by Adrian Roberts.
Page last reviewed: October 2018 I Next review due: October 2021

What is an anal abscess?

An anal abscess forms when an infection in one of the glands around your anus generates pus. The pus gathers in a cavity in the skin and develops into a painful abscess.

Men are twice as likely as women to have anal abscesses, which are more common between the ages of 20 to 60.

An anal abscess requires medical treatment to drain the pus, relieve pain and reduce the risk of further infection.

How to tell if you have an anal abscess

The symptoms of an anal abscess include:

Talk to your doctor if you’re concerned about symptoms

You can book an appointment with a Spire private GP today.

Diagnosis and tests for anal abscess

If you think you have an anal abscess, see your GP as soon as possible. They’ll ask about your symptoms, and your general health, including any history of bowel conditions.

They’ll examine your anus and rectum to check if you have a visible anal abscess or anal fistula (perianal abscess fistula). About one in two people with an anal abscess develops an anal fistula, a tunnel between your anus and rectum.

Your GP will check for conditions that can cause similar symptoms, such as inflammatory bowel disease and diverticulitis. In rare cases, perianal abscess causes include certain cancers and conditions which weaken the immune system.

Your GP may refer you to a colorectal surgeon or may refer you for further investigations, including an MRI scan.

Causes of anal abscess

The risk of having an anal abscess is higher if you have:

  • Diabetes
  • Inflammatory bowel disease, such as Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis, or another long-term (chronic) bowel condition
  • Anal sex
  • A weakened immune system, either due to illness, malnutrition or drug abuse
  • Previously had an anal abscess (up to 50% of abscesses reappear) or an anal fistula (perianal abscess fistula)

Common treatments for anal abscess

An anal abscess must be surgically drained, as quickly as possible. Your GP or consultant will drain your anal abscess, which can be done under a local or general anaesthetic.

Your GP or consultant will also be able to prescribe you with pain relief and, if required, antibiotics.