The cause of itchy bottom is not always known. However, sometimes it is a symptom of another problem or condition (see below).
An itchy bottom can sometimes be a sign that your body is trying to deal with an infection. The infection may be:
bacterial - such as the streptococcal bacteria that causes streptococcal infections, or the staphylococcal bacteria that causes staphylococcal infections
fungal - such as the Candida albicans fungus that causes vaginal thrush (a common infection in women that causes irritation and swelling of the vagina)
parasitic - such as threadworms (small worm parasites that infect the intestines) or scabies (tiny mites that burrow into the skin)
viral - such as the herpes simplex virus that causes cold sores
An itchy bottom can also be a symptom of a sexually transmitted infection (STI). If you have had unprotected sex, and you think that there may be a chance that you have an STI, you should visit your local sexual health or genito-urinary medicine (GUM) clinic. Staff at the clinic can test you for STIs and provide you with further treatment and advice.
See the Health A-Z topic about STIs for more information.
A gastrointestinal condition is one which affects your digestive tract (your mouth, throat, stomach, intestines and anus). Gastrointestinal conditions that may cause an itchy bottom include:
haemorrhoids (piles) - where the blood vessels in and around the anus become swollen
anal fistula - when a small channel (tract) develops between your anal canal (the last section of the large intestine) and the surface of your skin, near the anus (the opening where waste leaves the body)
anal fissure - a tear or ulcer (open sore) that develops in the lining of the anal canal
- sphincter incompetence - when the sphincter muscle (the ring of muscle that opens and closes your anus) stops working properly, causing bowel incontinence (when you leak stools)
- chronic (long-term) diarrhoea - passing loose, watery stools
- chronic constipation - an inability to completely empty your bowels
In rare cases, an itchy bottom can be a symptom of a gastrointestinal cancer, such as anal cancer or bowel cancer. It is important to remember that the majority of itchy bottom cases are not caused by cancer, but your GP will need to rule out all possibilities.
Anal cancer is rare, with around 850 cases diagnosed in the UK every year. Bowel cancer is the third most common type of cancer, with 38,000 cases occurring in the UK each year. Eight out of 10 cases of bowel cancer occur in people who are 60 years of age or over. If you do have cancer you are likely to have other symptoms as well such as:
- weight loss
- changes in your how often you go to the toilet
See the Health A-Z topics about Anal cancer and Bowel cancer for more information about these conditions.
A dermatological condition is one that affects your skin. Some dermatological conditions can affect any area of skin on the body, including the skin around your anus.
Skin conditions that can cause itchy bottom include:
psoriasis - where red, flaky, crusty patches of skin appear because your skin cells reproduce too quickly
contact dermatitis - where your skin reacts to certain substances, known as allergens, causing your skin to become inflamed (red and swollen)
atopic eczema - where your skin becomes red, dry and flaky
Conditions that affect your whole body (systemic conditions) can sometimes make your bottom feel itchy. For example:
diabetes - a chronic (long-term) condition that is caused by too much glucose in the blood
- renal failure - when your kidneys stop working properly
iron deficiency anaemia - when a lack of iron results in your blood being unable to carry as much oxygen as usual, leaving you feeling faint and tired
- an overactive thyroid (hyperthyroidism) - where there is too much thyroid hormone (chemical) in your body
Some types of medicine can cause side effects that make your bottom feel itchy. This is particularly true of topical (rub-on) medicines that are applied directly to your skin.
If used for a long period of time, some topical medicines can cause contact dermatitis, a condition that causes your skin to be itchy and red.
Some of the medicines that can cause an itchy bottom include:
- which is often used to treat gout (a type of arthritis that causes swelling in the joints)
- which is used to help relieve cramps or spasms in your stomach or intestines
long-term use of local anaesthetics - medicines that numb a specific part of your body
glyceryl trinitrate - a medicine that is used to treat chest pain
long-term use of
topical corticosteroids - medicines that are applied directly to the skin to help reduce inflammation
If a medicine that you are taking is causing itchy bottom, your bottom should become less itchy after you have completed your course of medication. You should never stop taking a prescribed medication unless you are advised to do so by your GP or another qualified healthcare professional who is responsible for your care.
Speak to your GP if you are taking a medicine on a long-term basis and it is causing itchy bottom. They may be able to prescribe an alternative medicine for you.
The sac-like organ of the digestive system that helps digest food by churning it and mixing it with acids to break it down into smaller pieces.
The intestines are the part of the digestive system between the stomach and the anus that digests and absorbs food and liquid.
The anus is the opening at the end of the digestive system where solid waste leaves the body.
Hormones are groups of powerful chemicals that are produced by the body and have a wide range of effects.
Inflammation is the body's response to infection, irritation or injury, which causes redness, swelling, pain
and sometimes a feeling of heat in the affected area.