First Time User? Enroll now.
*Vaccine availability and appointments* | Additional COVID-19 Resources | Testing
Please be aware that mask-wearing is required at all UNC Health facilities.
Home > Health Library > Anal Fistulas and Crohn's Disease
Crohn's disease may cause sores, or ulcers, that tunnel through the intestine and into the surrounding tissue, often around the anus and rectum. These abnormal tunnels, called fistulas, are a common complication of Crohn's disease. They may get infected. Crohn's disease can also cause anal fissures. These are narrow tears that extend from the muscles that control the anus (anal sphincters) up into the anal canal.
An anal fistula can often be treated with medicines. But sometimes surgery to repair the fistula may be needed. Conservative treatment with antibiotics and medicines to reduce pain and inflammation is usually tried before surgery. Surgery for an anal fistula sometimes does not heal well or takes a long time to heal. So it is usually done only if there is a complication such as an abscess.
Anyone with an unusual anal fistula that does not respond to conservative treatment should be examined for Crohn's disease. A fistula is often the first sign of Crohn's disease. An exam may include anoscopy or sigmoidoscopy. These are tests that allow a doctor to view the lower rectum and lower large intestine through a viewing scope. Complete evaluation may require sedation because the exam can cause discomfort.
Current as of:
June 6, 2022
Author: Healthwise StaffMedical Review: E. Gregory Thompson MD - Internal MedicineAdam Husney MD - Family MedicineArvydas D. Vanagunas MD - Gastroenterology
Current as of: June 6, 2022
Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review:E. Gregory Thompson MD - Internal Medicine & Adam Husney MD - Family Medicine & Arvydas D. Vanagunas MD - Gastroenterology
To learn more about Healthwise, visit Healthwise.org.
© 1995-2022 Healthwise, Incorporated. Healthwise, Healthwise for every health decision, and the Healthwise logo are trademarks of Healthwise, Incorporated.
Our interactive Decision Points guide you through making key health decisions by combining medical information with your personal information.
You'll find Decision Points to help you answer questions about:
Get started learning more about your health!
Our Interactive Tools can help you make smart decisions for a healthier life. You'll find personal calculators and tools for health and fitness, lifestyle checkups, and pregnancy.
Feeling under the weather?
Use our interactive symptom checker to evaluate your symptoms and determine appropriate action or treatment.