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What is a fistula?

Sometimes an abnormal 'tunnel' or connection forms in the body between two parts that are not normally joined. When this occurs, it is referred to in medical terminology as a 'fistula'. With an anal fistula, the connection is between the lining of the anus and the external skin.

What are the symptoms of a fistula?

With an anal fistula, an opening forms on the skin which will often discharge blood and/or pus. A lump sometimes also appears on the skin. Some fistulas (or 'fistulae') have few symptoms and others can be painful or merely uncomfortable. These symptoms can also come and go.

What causes a fistula?

A fistula can sometimes appear with no apparent cause, however fistulae are relatively common in cases of anal abscess and people with Crohn's Disease have an increased risk of developing one or more fistulae. Having said this most people who develop a fistula do not have any other bowel conditions.

How is a fistula treated?

A fistula, once formed, is very unlikely to heal itself without medical intervention. A surgical procedure is generally recommended to treat a fistula.