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For further information, see CMDT Part 6-43: Anogenital Pruritus

Key Features

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

  • May be due to

    • Intertrigo

    • Psoriasis

    • Lichen simplex chronicus

    • Seborrheic or contact dermatitis (from soaps, wipes, colognes, douches, and topical treatments)

    • Irritating secretions (eg, diarrhea, leukorrhea, or trichomoniasis)

    • Local disease (candidiasis, dermatophytosis, erythrasma) and, at times, oxyuriasis (pinworm infestation)

  • 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

  • In women, pruritus vulvae does not usually involve the anal area, though anal itching usually spreads to the vulva

  • In men, pruritus of the scrotum is most commonly seen in the absence of pruritus ani

  • Up to one-third of causes of anogenital pruritus may be due to nerve root impingements in the lumbosacral spine

  • Squamous cell carcinoma of the anus and extramammary Paget disease are rare causes of genital pruritus

Clinical Findings

Symptoms and Signs

  • The only symptom is itching

  • Physical findings are usually not present, but there may be

    • Erythema

    • Fissuring

    • Maceration

    • Lichenification

    • Excoriations

    • Changes suggestive of candidiasis or tinea

Differential Diagnosis

  • Idiopathic

  • Intertrigo

  • Psoriasis

  • Hemorrhoids

  • Lichen simplex chronicus

  • Seborrheic dermatitis

  • Contact dermatitis

  • Candidiasis

  • Tinea

  • Erythrasma

  • Irritants: diarrhea, vaginal discharge

  • Lichen sclerosis

  • Oxyuriasis


Laboratory Tests

  • Urinalysis and blood glucose testing may lead to a diagnosis of diabetes mellitus

  • Microscopic examination or culture of tissue scrapings may reveal yeasts or fungi

  • Stool examination may show pinworms

Imaging Studies

  • Radiologic studies (CT or MRI) may demonstrate nerve root impingements in the lumbosacral spine




  • Treating constipation, preferably with high-fiber management (psyllium), may help


  • Pramoxine cream or lotion or hydrocortisone-pramoxine (Pramosone), 1% or 2.5% cream, lotion, or ointment is helpful in managing pruritus in the anogenital area; the ointment or cream should be applied after a bowel movement

  • Topical doxepin cream 5% is similarly effective, but it may be sedating

  • The use of strong corticosteroids on the scrotum may lead to persistent severe burning on withdrawal of the drug

  • Balneol Perianal Cleansing Lotion, or Tucks premoistened pads, ointment, or cream may be very useful for pruritus ani

  • In men with scrotal or anal pruritus, capsaicin cream 0.006% twice daily may be beneficial

  • In cases where underlying spinal neurologic ...

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