So. Butts. Let's do this thing.
Butt acne is totally common, and also treatable.
It can be treated with topical medications and also lasers, New York City-based certified dermatologist Dr. Michele S. Green tells BuzzFeed Life. "We do that a lot," she says.
Baby wipes aren't just bad for the plumbing, they can be bad for your butt too.
"A lot of people get allergic reactions and contact dermatitis from baby wipes," Green says. "You want to use soap and water and regular toilet paper instead." If you have a particularly sensitive bum, use a mild soap with no added perfumes.
You can get melanoma (the deadliest form of skin cancer) on your butt cheeks even if you've never bared your ass in the light of day.
"I have a lot of patients that have melanomas on their butts," Green says. "That's one of the most common places I diagnose them, and it's the most common place people miss." Here's how to do a skin self-exam, from the American Cancer Society. And talk to your doctor about how often you should get screened for skin cancer, based on your personal and family history.
It's surprisingly common to have itchy or burning ~skin situations~ going on in the butt region.
"A lot of patients have psoriasis or eczema in that area and don't realize it," Green says. It could also be allergies to the toilet paper or creams you use. Itchy, burning skin feelings can happen on the cheeks, in the crack, or even around the anus.
You should really see a doctor about that.
For relief, in the very least! If you're looking at a skin condition like eczema or psoriasis: "There are a lot of creams, emollients, steroid creams... there are many things people can do," Green says. No shame in the ass-cream game.
If the issue is hemorrhoids or something else (like anal or colorectal cancer... more on that in a second), your doctor should examine you and determine the next steps in terms of treatment.
There are lots of reasons that you might be constipated.
You may not be eating enough fiber. You might be dehydrated. Certain medications can stop you up. It could be a symptom of IBS. All sorts of reasons! Read about 9 Reasons You Can't Poop for some more information.
If you have chronic constipation, tell your doctor. They can help you figure out what's going on and how to treat it.
There are also quite a few reasons people have diarrhea.
Like you're about to get your period, for instance. Or you ate something that disagreed with you. Or you have a virus, or a bacterial infection. Either way, after your first instance of diarrhea, you can try to treat yourself with Immodium (follow the instructions on the package for proper usage), and make sure to stay hydrated with clear liquids.
If your diarrhea continues, where you have multiple instances of it for more than a day or two, go to a doctor ASAP. Dehydration is a big, dangerous possibility, and you'll need to be put on fluids (and get checked out to see if something isn't seriously wrong).
Hemorrhoids are caused when the blood vessels in and around your anus get enlarged, engorged, or dilated.
This can happen when you're constipated OR when you have diarrhea, Dr. Roberta Muldoon, colorectal surgeon and chair of the Public Relations Committee for the American Society of Colon and Rectal Surgeons, tells BuzzFeed Life. Basically, any time you bear down, strain, or otherwise put pressure on the area around your anus, you risk irritating your blood vessels and creating hemorrhoids.
You can treat early-stage hemorrhoids with dietary changes.
"Typical treatment for early hemorrhoids involves eating a high-fiber diet and keeping well hydrated," Muldoon says. That's because hemorrhoids can be caused by straining (due to constipation), and eating more fiber and drinking more water can make it easier for you to poop. Easier poops = less straining = fewer inflamed hemorrhoids.
If you're constipated, it's better to get up and walk around, rather than sitting and straining, Muldoon says.
If your hemorrhoids are larger and more problematic, there are other ways to deal with them.
Like banding, where the doctor puts rubber bands on them to choke off the blood supply. "It's painful, so we try to limit doing that," Muldoon says. Don't try it at home.
Reading on the toilet can make your hemorrhoids worse.
When you're distracted from doing your business quickly and efficiently, you can spend a disproportionate amount of time sitting in a position that doesn't support your bottom (literally). This excessive unsupported sitting can cause the blood vessels to become engorged.
Pregnancy also causes hemorrhoids in a big way.
For starters, your baby is pushing down on your pelvic structure, which engorges the blood vessels down there, Muldoon says. And pregnancy can often go hand in hand with constipation, which means more straining to begin with. And then comes childbirth, which is basically the biggest straining of your entire life.
An exam for hemorrhoids involves the doctor actually looking at your butt, and doing a digital exam (that means feeling with fingers).
"It's OK to get it checked out with your primary care physician or family doctor, if they're willing to look down there," Muldoon says. "But if they just say, here's some hemorrhoid cream, and they don't examine you, you haven't been checked out. That doesn't help you much." If your primary care doc isn't into doing hemorrhoid checks, ask to be referred to a colorectal doctor instead.
The external exam means looking at the skin around the anus, to see if anything looks abnormal or problematic. "[Then comes the] digital exam — feeling around inside to find any masses or hard areas," Muldoon says. At some clinics, like where Muldoon practices, the doctor might also use a short scope, called an anuscope, which is inserted into the anus to give the doctor a really good look at the lower part of the rectum or anus.
The symptoms of hemorrhoids are actually pretty similar to the symptoms of other much worse things, so you really, really should see a doctor even if you're 110% convinced you just have hemorrhoids.
Muldoon says that classic hemorrhoid symptoms can range, and can include one or several or all of the following:
- Some itching around your anus
- A little bit of blood when you poop
- A fair amount of blood when you poop
- A bump around your anus that you notice when you're cleaning or wiping yourself
"All of those are signs of hemorrhoids, but all of those can be signs of cancer too," Muldoon says. NOT TO FREAK YOU OUT, but that's why it's ALWAYS better to get it checked out, whatever it is, just to be sure.
Because colon cancer, when caught early enough, can be treatable or even curable.
So, yes, going to your doctor and telling her that your literal asshole is itching and sometimes bleeding might be a little embarrassing. But it's worth it if it means finding a cancer in time to deal with it. Just...some perspective.
If you're bleeding a little when you poop and your doctor can't find any hemorrhoids, you'll then be referred to a gastroenterologist or a colorectal surgeon, who will want to take a better look at what's going on.
The doctor will likely perform an endoscopy, which is where they insert a light and camera up your butt to see inside your digestive tract to find out what's causing your symptoms. You may have ulcers or inflammation, for instance. Or it's possible that you have a polyp that's bleeding, which can be removed nonsurgically. "We can take those out endoscopically, and then it never has a chance to turn into cancer, and you don't have to have surgery," Muldoon says.
If you don't have a family history of colon cancer, you should start getting colonoscopies at age 50.
If you don't have any polyps or concerning findings, then you only need to do it once every 10 years.
If you do have a family history — meaning someone in your family had colon cancer or polyps — then you should start your screening about 10 years before the age of the family member when they got diagnosed, Muldoon says. That means that if your mother was diagnosed with colon cancer at 45, then you should start your screening at 35, instead of waiting until 50.
When you "prep" for a colonoscopy, you have to cleanse your colon out completely. By having a ton of diarrhea.
That's because colonoscopies involve looking inside your colon with a scope, and if there's still solid stool inside, the view will be blocked, Muldoon says.
Here's how the prep works: Most start the day before the procedure, although some are taken over two days (a "split prep," she says). You'll be told to drink clear liquid throughout the day, so you stay hydrated — "water, juice, anything you can hold up and see through," Muldoon says. Then you'll need to drink a sizable volume of liquid mixed with a particular laxative. The laxative will force you to have a lot of diarrhea. "By the time you're done, it's just like water is coming out when you go to the toilet," Muldoon says. "That's how clear it should be — like you're peeing out of your rectum."
IBS, or irritable bowel syndrome, affects about twice as many women as it does men, according to the National Institutes of Health.
IBS causes pain and discomfort in the large intestine. Symptoms include cramping, gas, constipation, and diarrhea. It can affect different people in different ways — some have diarrhea, some have constipation, and some go back and forth with both.
In order for you to be diagnosed with IBS, doctors have to rule out a bunch of other things first, says Dr. Gina Sam, director of the Mount Sinai Gastrointestinal Motility Center.
For starters, your doctor should rule out celiac disease (an auto-immune disorder where eating gluten causes damage to your small intestine). Once that's ruled out, "you have to have no blood in your stool, no alarming symptoms, like anemia, and your symptoms have to be going on for more than three months," Sam says. Basically, the symptoms need to be ongoing, chronic, and not caused by other things. "Also, the pain has to go away after a bowel movement," she says.
They can often be confused for IBS, but they are distinct conditions. "In Crohn's and ulcerative colitis, there's inflammation of the mucosa," Sam says. "But with IBS, there isn't inflammation."
The inflammation can cause sores and ulcers inside your body. "Ulcerative colitis affects more of the colon — the entire colon will become inflamed, and you'll have bloody diarrhea," Sam says. "Whereas Crohn's can affect anywhere in the GI tract, the small bowel, and the colon. It usually causes ulcers and inflammation that skips areas — so, part of the small bowel, and part of the colon. Ulcerative colitis is inflammation throughout the whole colon."
These diseases can be painful, debilitating, embarrassing, and incredibly upsetting to people who have them. Symptoms include bloody diarrhea, uncontrollable diarrhea, stomach pain and cramping, weight loss, loss of appetite, bleeding from the rectum, and more. If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, you should go to a doctor right away. Depending on your condition and your level of discomfort, your doctor might prescribe you very strong medication, or look into surgery to remove some or all of your colon, after which you would use an ostomy bag.
THE BOTTOM LINE:
If you have anything curious or painful or troubling or itchy or at all unusual that has to do with your butt, what's coming out of it, or what's stuck inside... see a doctor.
For starters, because this list is by NO MEANS exhaustive; there are so many things that have to do with butt health that we haven't covered here. And also: because going to the doctor when you have trouble is good for you.
"The problem with colorectal issues in general is that no one wants to talk about it," Muldoon says. The thing to remember is that while you may find it embarrassing, doctors deal with these problems every single day. And colorectal surgeons and gastroenterologists deal with them as their JOB. Just remember: The earlier you can get treated for your problems, the better off you'll be.
No butts about it.
Celiac disease is an autoimmune disorder where eating gluten can cause damage to the small intestine. An earlier version of this post referred to it as an allergy to gluten.