Of the many diseases and disorders that affect the rectal area, even the smallest issues tend to be blown out of proportion either due to negligence or societal stigma. An anal fistula, which is a cut on the inner lining of the anal canal, is one such condition. Typically, anal fistulas do not heal independently and require medical attention in the form of medications provided they are detected in the early stages. 

You may need to have a preliminary examination of the concerned area before you can receive the right treatment plan. Once this procedural examination is done, the surgeon will discuss the options with you and which one they believe is best for you.

Furthermore, depending on the severity of your issue, the doctor would recommend whether or not you need surgery. The surgery’s objective is to fix the fistula without harming the sphincter muscles (a ring of tendons that open or close the anus) in order to avoid any further complications related to bowel movement. Keep reading below to learn more about anal fistula treatment and get a comprehensive answer to the question, ‘Can fistula be treated without surgery?’ 

4 Fistula Symptoms to Watch Out 

Fistula is one of the common lower intestinal disorders that causes pain and discomfort while passing stools. The condition is challenging to control and does not get better on its own. The patients’ extreme agony to perform simple tasks like sitting or lying down is another dreadful aspect of this condition. 

Two openings make up a fistula — one is located in the anal canal, and the other leads to the outside of the anal canal. Many patients often complain about an abscess near the anal canal that occasionally secretes blood and pus. Here are some primary symptoms that fistula patients usually face. 

  • Itchy Skin

Patients with anal fistula frequently complain of itchy skin around the anus. In many instances, skin irritation and redness may also cause swelling. The itchy skin is mainly caused by the internal fistula which puts pressure on the walls of the rectum. 

  • Pulsating Pain

Many patients describe a constant pulsing ache around the impacted area that never seems to stop. This problem usually intensifies with activities such as sitting still, moving around, passing stools or coughing. During these periods, patients may describe their pain as scorching, cutting, or tearing in nature.

  • Bleeding or Fistula-Related Discharge

Another prevalent fistula symptom is the discharge of offensive-smelling or bloody discharge from the rectum followed by intense pain. The pain is more when there is fluid/pus build-up within the rectum and reduces when there is discharge.

  • Frequent Anal Bleeding or Discharge

Bloody stools are another symptom that is rather frequent and are described as a discharge of pus or blood in the stools of some anal fistula patients. The bleeding isn’t as most people consider and is discharged with the stools on its surface. Typically, the blood only appears on the surface of the feces rather than inside.

Factors Responsible for Fistulas

The major factor that causes fistula’s is infections of the anal glands. When the pus-filled abscess is drained. It leaves behind a canal in the rectum. But there are several other reasons which can cause anal fistula’s 

  • Crohn’s disease (an inflammatory disease of the intestine)
  • Radiation (treatment for cancer)
  • Trauma
  • Sexually transmitted diseases
  • Tuberculosis
  • Diverticulitis (a disease in which small pouches form in the large intestine and become inflamed)
  • Cancer

Ayurvedic Treatment for Fistula

According to Ayurveda, the fistula is a consequence of inactive digestion, which denotes the primary cause of the fistula’s formation. It is possible to enhance and improve one’s digestive capacity. Patients’ chances of recovering from illness significantly improve when they focus on their gut health. Ayurveda has, for ages, cured fistulas of various types with a treatment called Ksharasutra.  

In the Ayurvedic treatment, alkalis and herbal remedies are layers multiple times on a cotton thread. The alkali is coated onto the thread 15 to 20 times so as to reach complete saturation. The alkali granules in this thread give it extraordinary abilities to heal a wound from the inside. 

Furthermore, herbs are used in Ayurvedic treatments, which support a healthy digestive system. The digestive system removes waste from the body; if this doesn’t occur as it should, it could result in additional health issues. Therefore, to treat anal fistulas, the digestive system’s balance must be rebuilt by consuming vitamin-rich food that promotes healing

Ayurvedic Treatment Vs. Surgery for Fistula Treatment

Fistula treatment is neglected due to the stigma associated with the condition. People often fail to identify that they have anal fistula, let alone seek treatment. With early diagnosis and treatment, some fistulas can be treated without the need for surgery through antibiotics and other medication. When the affected area does not heal or respond to medication and increases in size, the patient will be required to undergo surgical procedures to heal the fistula. 

Though the ayurvedic treatment method has been followed for centuries, it can sometimes have drawbacks such as excessive pain during and after surgery. And apart from the fact that it is still used to treat fistulas in India, not a lot of scientific evidence supports the treatment method. Even so, there is research that has promoted this method as a suitable treatment option for fistula

The most popular surgical procedure “laid open” is an approach that converts a tunnel into an open groove and allows the fistula to heal from the inside out. The procedure involves stitching the sides of the fistula to the incision site. The patient might need to be in the hospital for a couple of days post which they can recover at home. The fistula should recover in 6 weeks provided the patient takes appropriate care around the surgery site. 

The bottom line 

So can fistula be treated without surgery? Yes!

But the important fact is that it must be identified and treated early so as prevent further complications. In case the fistula has increased in size or has not healed for prolonged periods, you might need to seek alternative options. 

Both the procedures mentioned are meant to cure the condition with minimal discomfort to the patient. While the Ayurvedic treatment method is an ancient practice, the surgical procedure has shown better recovery rates, lower chances of infections, better success rates and low recurrence rates. The long-term success rate of the surgical procedure is 92–97%.

And if you are wondering where to avail this ancient Indian traditional medicine, well, just reach out to Ayu Health Hospitals. We have the best solutions for all fistula-related problems in addition to the holistic care that we provide.

About the Author

Dr goel
Dr. S. Goel
MBBS PGDCM FID MBAHHM at Ayu Health | Website | + posts

Dr. S. Goel  is a renowned Internal Medicine Specialist currently practicing at Ayu Health Hospital, Bangalore.  He is a Specialist in Internal Medicine, Diabetes HTN, Paediatric Care, and Family Medicine.