If you've spent years battling hemorrhoids or other causes of chronic anal discomfort, you may be dismayed to learn that your pre-existing issues have developed into deeper and more painful anal fissures. In other cases, these fissures can arise without warning following a medical procedure or other life event that has left you constipated. Once your diagnosis has been confirmed, what are your options? Read on to learn more about the factors that can increase your risk of being diagnosed with anal fissures, as well as the steps you can take to quickly regain your pain-free life. 

What causes anal fissures?

Although they can sometimes masquerade as hemorrhoids (bulging, painful veins that protrude from the skin around the anus), anal fissures actually involve a tearing of the skin around the anus or in the lining of the rectum. These fissures can form whenever too much pressure is placed on the anal opening, from straining to pass an extra-large bowel movement or straining during childbirth to dealing with chronic diarrhea. Although certain groups (like children or pregnant women) may be at increased risk of developing anal fissures, this ailment can strike just about anyone at any age. 

Most anal fissures will resolve themselves, although the discomfort you feel during the healing process can still send you to the doctor seeking anything that will provide some relief. In some cases, an anal fissure can also serve as the starting point for a minor skin infection, which could require antibiotic pills or ointments to fully heal.

How can you treat these fissures quickly?

Whether treating these painful fissures at home or with medical assistance, you'll want to keep a few guidelines in mind. The first involves keeping the affected area as clean as possible without further irritating the inflamed skin. It's important to limit bacteria growth in the area, as the risk of infection is already high; however, repeated wiping or the use of harsh alcohol-based cleaners could make painful fissures even worse. You may opt to use over-the-counter medicated pads to wipe after each bowel movement or whenever you've been sweating excessively, as these pads shouldn't cause any irritation and should remove most problem-causing bacteria.

You'll also want to keep the area moisturized with an anti-microbial agent. Just as superficial cuts on your skin tend to heal more quickly when they're bandaged with an antibiotic ointment, anal fissures will heal more quickly when the surrounding skin is kept moist. Coconut oil is one good option, as it can provide healing moisture while staving off any harmful bacteria. In other cases, a stronger antibiotic ointment may be necessary to prevent infection while promoting new skin growth.