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An anal fissure is a tear in the lining of the anus. Anal fissures can make bowel movements severely painful, and even cause pain that lasts for hours after you've gone to the bathroom. People who suffer from anal fissures may try to avoid defecating to prevent the pain and discomfort.

An anal fissure is usually a short-term or acute problem, with symptoms that last 6 weeks or less. Anal fissures are considered chronic when symptoms last for more than 6 weeks. Chronic anal fissures may be more difficult to treat and may indicate an underlying condition, such as Crohn's disease or ulcerative colitis.

Common Symptoms of an Anal Fissure

If you have an acute anal fissure, you may feel a tearing or ripping sensation in the anal area during bowel movements. You may also notice:

  • A visible tear in the anus
  • Pain during bowel movements
  • Blood on used toilet paper or wipes
  • Blood on the surface of stools
  • Bleeding that discolors toilet water
  • Bad-smelling discharge

Signs that a fissure has become chronic can include:

  • Painful bowel movements without bleeding
  • Itch and irritation of the skin around the anus
  • A skin tag at the end of a fissure

Acute anal fissures can also occur in infants. They are thought to be the most common cause of rectal bleeding in infants. Signs that your child may have an anal fissure include:

  • Crying during bowel movements
  • Blood on the surface of stools or in soiled diapers
  • A visible tear in the anal area