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Anal tears - What are anal tears?

BMJ Group Medical Reference


Anal tears can be painful and uncomfortable. But they usually heal after some simple treatments. If they don't get better, you'll probably need treatment to help the muscle in your anus relax. Anal tears are also known as anal fissures.

We've brought together the best research about anal tears and weighed up the evidence about how to treat them. You can use our information to talk to your doctor and decide which treatments are best for you.

Anal tears are small cuts or rips in the skin of your anus. Your anus is the opening from which stools (feces) come out. A tear here makes passing stools very painful.

If you've got an anal tear (also called anal fissure), the pain after passing stools can last for hours after you've been to the toilet.[1]

Doctors don't know why some people get anal tears and others don't. There are a number of reasons why you may get an anal tear.[1][2][3]

  • Passing hard and dry stools. These types of stools can cause your anus to stretch and tear slightly because the skin around your anus is quite thin.

  • Constipation . When you're constipated, passing stools is difficult and you don't pass them often enough. This may lead to tears in your anus. But we don't know for certain how many people get tears because of constipation.

  • Diarrhoea may also cause anal tears in some people.

Most anal tears happen at the back of the anus. But 1 in 4 women and 1 in 12 men get a tear at the front.[1]

It's unusual to have more than one tear at a time, or for the skin on the sides of your anus to tear. If this happens, your doctor may do some tests to see if the tears are due to an infection or a problem with your digestion.[4]

Anal tears often heal on their own. Or you may need to take some simple steps to help them heal. To learn more see What can I do to help my anal tear heal?

Sometimes a tear stays open for several weeks or more. Tears that don't heal, or come and go for months, are called chronic anal tears.[1][3] Your doctor will probably say your anal tear is chronic if you've had it for at least six weeks.

Doctors think that some tears don't heal because the muscle that controls your anus tightens up (goes into spasm). The tightness can cause more pain and it stops blood getting to your anus properly. This prevents the tear from healing.[2][5][6]



The anus, which is at the end of the rectum, is where stools leave your body when you go to the toilet. Part of the anus is a muscle that helps you hold in the stool until you are on the toilet.


When you're constipated, you have difficulty passing stools (faeces). Your bowel movements may be dry and hard. You may have fewer bowel movements than usual, and it may be a strain when you try to go.


Diarrhoea is when you have loose, watery stools and you need to go to the toilet far more often than usual. Doctors say you have diarrhoea if you need to go to the toilet more than three times a day.


You get an infection when bacteria, a fungus, or a virus get into a part of your body where it shouldn't be. For example, an infection in your nose and airways causes the common cold. An infection in your skin can cause rashes such as athlete's foot. The organisms that cause infections are so tiny that you can't see them without a microscope.

For more terms related to Anal tears


For references related to Anal tears click here.
Last Updated: March 13, 2013
This information does not replace medical advice.  If you are concerned you might have a medical problem please ask your Boots pharmacy team in your local Boots store, or see your doctor.
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