Tips for Preventing Anal Fissures

An anal fissure is a tear in the delicate tissue that lines your anal canal. They usually cause bleeding and severe pain.

Once you have an anal fissure, you'll definitely want to avoid getting another one, so follow these simple steps.

Get Plenty of Fiber

If you're constipated, passing large, hard, or dry stools can cause an anal fissure. Getting plenty of fiber in your diet -- especially from fruits and vegetables -- can help prevent constipation, though.

Get 20 to 35 grams of fiber per day. Foods that are good sources include:

  • Wheat bran
  • Oat bran
  • Whole grains, including brown rice, oatmeal, popcorn, and whole-grain pastas, cereals, and breads
  • Peas and beans
  • Seeds and nuts
  • Citrus fruits
  • Prunes and prune juice

If you can’t get enough fiber through your diet, try fiber supplements.

Whether you eat more fiber-rich foods or take supplements, boost your intake gradually until you notice softer, more-frequent bowel movements. Also, drink plenty of liquids as you take in more fiber. This will help you avoid bloating and gas.

Stay Hydrated

That can help you prevent constipation. Drinking plenty of liquids adds fluid to your system, which can make stools softer and easier to pass. Be sure to drink more when the weather gets warmer or as you become more physically active.

Not all drinks are good choices for staying hydrated. Too much alcohol can dehydrate you. Also, although a caffeinated drink may help you go to the bathroom, too much caffeine can dehydrate you as well.

Exercise

One of the most common causes of constipation is a lack of physical activity. Exercise for at least 30 minutes most days to help keep your digestive system moving and in good shape. Work toward 150 minutes or more per week.

Don't Ignore Your Urge to Go

If your body tells you it's time to have a bowel movement, don't put it off till later. Waiting too long or too often can weaken the signals that let you know it's time to go. The longer you hold it in, the dryer and harder it can get, which makes it tougher to pass.

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Practice Healthy Bowel Habits

These tips can help lessen constipation and strain on the anal canal. Check these habits regularly to lower your risk of getting a painful anal fissure:

  • When using the bathroom, give yourself enough time to pass bowel movements comfortably. But don't sit on the toilet too long.
  • Don’t strain while passing stools.
  • Keep the anal area dry.
  • Gently clean yourself after each bowel movement.
  • Use soft, dye-free, and scent-free toilet paper or wipes.
  • Get treatment for ongoing diarrhea.

If you have other conditions that contribute to anal fissures -- like Crohn’s disease or IBS, for examples -- stay on top of your treatment.

Ask Your Doctor About Laxatives

If adding fiber to your diet and taking fiber supplements aren't enough to treat constipation, laxatives may help. Some work in different ways.

Considered the safest kind of laxative, bulk-forming laxatives, or fiber supplements, increase your stools by allowing them to absorb and hold fluid. They also encourage contractions in the colon to move stools along. Bulk-forming laxatives include calcium polycarbophil, methylcellulose, psyllium, or wheat dextrin. You take them with water.

Other types of laxatives can help by:

  • Increasing the amount of water in the intestines
  • Lubricating stools so they can move more easily (mineral oil)
  • Drawing or pulling water into the colon
  • Stimulating the muscles in the intestines to speed up bowel movements

Ask your doctor which kind of laxative -- if any -- is right for you, and how long you should take it.

Frequent Diaper Changes for Infants

Babies can get anal fissures, too. Change your baby's diaper often, and get medical help if she shows any signs of constipation.

WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Carol DerSarkissian on October 28, 2018

Sources

SOURCES:

Cleveland Clinic: "Anal Fissures."

UpToDate: "Patient information: Anal fissure (Beyond the Basics)," "Patient information: High-fiber diet (Beyond the Basics)," "Patient information: Constipation in Adults (Beyond the Basics)."  

NHS Choices: "Anal Fissure - Prevention," "Laxatives - Introduction."

American Heart Association: "Whole Grains and Fiber."

Harvard School of Public Health, The Nutrition Source: "Fiber: Start Roughing It!"

National Digestive Disease Information Clearinghouse (NDDIC): "Constipation."

University of Michigan Health System: "Bowel Function Anatomy."

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