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All About Fistulas

Have you just been diagnosed with a fistula? You’re in the right spot! Fistulas sound scary at first, and can be very unpleasant to live with. But treatment for a fistula is typically easy; there are many options for you, depending on the location of your fistula.

First things first – what exactly is a fistula? A fistula is an abnormal connection between two parts of the body. This might be anywhere in the body, for example a passageway between the anus and vagina, or the bladder and vagina. Fistulas can be painful, and can have very unpleasant symptoms. With symptoms like urine leakage from the vagina, frequent UTIs, leakage of feces, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea, it’s easy to see how fistulas can greatly reduce the quality of life if left untreated.

Fistulas are typically caused by some type of injury. One of the most common causes of fistula is childbirth, which can cause tears in the vaginal lining that lead all the way to the rectum. In these cases, a fistula may develop. However, fistulas may also develop in people with untreated bowel disorders, such as Crohn’s disease or diverticulitis, or bacterial infections.

Roughly 50,000 – 100,000 people are diagnosed with a fistula each year, according to the World Health Organization. Luckily, doctors are becoming better and preventing fistulas from occurring. There are also many good treatment options that can treat a fistula, depending on the location it is in. Fistulas are typically easy to treat.

A fistula typically won’t go away on it’s own. You’ll have to seek treatment from a professional. Your doctor may suggest one of several types of treatment options.

NON-INVASIVE TREATMENTS

Non-invasive treatment options include things like fibrin glue (a medical adhesive that is used to seal fistulas), a plug to fill the fistula (that’s usually made up of collagen), or a catheter, which can help to drain fistulas.

A seton stitch may also be used to treat a fistula, by helping drain any infection that has occurred.

SURGERY

Surgery may also be an option. Transabdominal surgery is performed by accessing the fistula through an incision in the abdominal wall. Laparoscopic surgery is another option, which is minimally invasive and involves making just a tiny incision and using cameras and smaller tools to repair the fistula.

MEDICATIONS

There are no pharmaceutical product approved to treat fistulas, however many doctors prescribe antibiotics or other medications to treat infections of a fistula.

If you have recently had treatment for an anal fistula, which is one of the most common locations for a fistula to develop, talk to your doctor about steps you should take while recovering from your treatment. These may include things like soaking in a warm bath, wearing a pad over the anal area, keeping the anal area clean, and eating a high fiber diet and drinking enough fluids.

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