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ESSENTIALS OF DIAGNOSIS

  • Itching, chiefly nocturnal, of the anogenital area.

  • Examination is highly variable, ranging from no skin findings to excoriations and inflammation of any degree, including lichenification.

GENERAL CONSIDERATIONS

Anogenital pruritus may be due to a primary inflammatory skin disease (intertrigo, psoriasis, lichen simplex chronicus, seborrheic dermatitis, lichen sclerosus), contact dermatitis (soaps, colognes, douches, and topical treatments), irritating secretions (diarrhea, leukorrhea, or trichomoniasis), infections (candidiasis, dermatophytosis, erythrasma), or oxyuriasis (pinworms). Erythrasma (Figure 6–34) is diagnosed by coral-red fluorescence with Wood light and cured with erythromycin. Squamous cell carcinoma of the anus and extramammary Paget disease are rare causes of genital pruritus.

Figure 6–34.

Erythrasma of the axilla. (Used, with permission, from Richard P. Usatine, MD, in Usatine RP, Smith MA, Mayeaux EJ Jr, Chumley H, Tysinger J. The Color Atlas of Family Medicine. McGraw-Hill, 2009.)

In pruritus ani, hemorrhoids are often found, and leakage of mucus and bacteria from the distal rectum onto the perianal skin may be important in cases in which no other skin abnormality is found.

Many women experience pruritus vulvae. Pruritus vulvae does not usually involve the anal area, though anal itching may spread to the vulva. In men, pruritus of the scrotum is most commonly seen in the absence of pruritus ani.

Up to one-third of unidentified causes of anogenital pruritus may be due to nerve impingements of the lumbosacral spine, so evaluation of lumbosacral spine disease is appropriate if no skin disorder is identified and topical therapy is ineffective.

CLINICAL FINDINGS

A. Symptoms and Signs

The only symptom is itching. Physical findings are usually not present, but there may be erythema, fissuring, maceration, lichenification, excoriations, or changes suggestive of candidiasis or tinea.

B. Laboratory Findings

Microscopic examination or culture of tissue scrapings may reveal yeasts or fungi. Stool examination may show pinworms. Radiologic studies may demonstrate spinal disease.

DIFFERENTIAL DIAGNOSIS

The etiologic differential diagnosis consists of Candida infection, parasitosis, local irritation from contactants or irritants, nerve impingement, and other primary skin disorders of the genital area, such as psoriasis, seborrhea, intertrigo, or lichen sclerosus (eFigure 6–82).

eFigure 6–82.

Lichen sclerosis et atrophicus: buttocks. (Used, with permission, from K Zipperstein, MD.)

PREVENTION

Instruct the patient in proper anogenital hygiene after treating systemic or local conditions.

TREATMENT

Treating constipation, preferably with high-fiber management (psyllium), may help. Instruct the patient to use very soft or moistened tissue or cotton after bowel movements and to clean the perianal area thoroughly with cool water ...

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