Fissure + Fistula Success Story

How I helped my fissure heal naturally and survived a fistulotomy.

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Fissure + Fistula Success Story

Postby PrincessPeach » 09 Jul 2017, 02:36

I want to share my story in case it gives some hope to anyone who is suffering right now. I understand how lonely, unfair, and embarrassing having fissures and fistulas can feel.

At the time the fissure happened I was a very healthy 29-year-old woman (now 30). It took months to heal. During the healing process, I developed an abscess that led to a fistula, which ultimately required a fistulotomy. The entire ordeal lasted 9 months. I’m happy to report that I recovered from surgery quickly and have had a healthy butt for 8 months now.

One side note – in the 5 years leading up to this incident I had occasional mild pain and intense itching that I believed to be hemorrhoids. This happened increasingly often leading up to the fissure, but always resolved within a few days. I never saw a doctor for this, so I can’t confirm they were hemorrhoids. However, since my surgery I haven’t had any issues.

The fissure happened in February 2016 while I was on vacation in Hawaii. I’d been dehydrated and constipated, and on the final day of our trip I had a BM that felt like shards of glass. The toilet was filled with blood. I hadn’t heard of anal fissures and assumed it was a hemorrhoid. The fissure developed a small bump called a “sentinel pile” which further mislead me to think it was a hemorrhoid.

I was in pain for months and tried every hemorrhoid treatment available. I even tried acupuncture treatments with someone who claimed to be an expert at healing hemorrhoids with traditional Chinese medicine.

By April, I was in mind-bending pain that made it difficult to sit or walk. I finally visited a family practice doctor out of desperation. This turned out to be a terrible, regrettable experience. He joked about being the “lucky one” to give me my first anal exam. He was not gentle when he inserted the scope – I felt a sharp pinch and I think he actually re-tore the fissure. He misdiagnosed my fissure’s bump as a prolapsed internal hemorrhoid. I told him that the pain was almost unbearable, but he was dismissive, saying that a hemorrhoid the size of mine didn’t usually cause that much pain. He prescribed hydrocortisone suppositories and cream, which I used for several weeks.

I wish I’d gone directly to a specialist from the beginning. I later learned from my surgeon that it’s very common for general practice doctors to mistake fissures for hemorrhoids.

By this point I was depressed. The feelings of hopelessness and frustration were just as bad – sometimes worse – than the physical pain. I had no social life, no sex life, and I spent most of my spare time desperately, obsessively searching for answers online.

After weeks of no improvement I was referred to a colorectal surgeon. I first saw her in May, and she immediately determined I had fissure – not a hemorrhoid. She prescribed Diltiazem cream, which helps relax the spasming inner sphincter muscles that we have no control over. The spasms cut off blood flow, preventing healing. I used it for months, but felt little improvement.

My surgeon was very conservative and encouraged me to continue with a careful diet and give the Diltiazem more time. She was hesitant to perform any invasive fissure procedures on someone who may still have children. The next step would have been Botox injections, which temporarily paralyze sphincter muscles (again, to allow blood flow which promotes healing), but this procedure comes with some risk of temporary incontinence.

I continued with Diltiazem and a very strict diet (lots of fiber from fresh fruits and veggies, lots of water, no alcohol, no coffee, no spicy food, enough protein, and as little sugar as possible) for months. Eventually, I thought to try taking regular infrared saunas. I’d read that infrared saunas heat and relax muscles from the inside out, so I thought it might relax the inner sphincter, too. Around 8 months after the initial fissure happened, my surgeon confirmed that it was almost healed.

A month later, I started experiencing a new, worse kind of pain. It was sharper than the fissure pain and would come about spontaneously. When it happened, I had to freeze – any kind of movement, even breathing, was excruciating. I also noticed a pus-like discharge. I immediately visited my surgeon, who was never able to find an abscess, but was confident one had popped on its own. This started to reoccur increasingly often over the next couple of weeks. She suspected a fistula, and recommended operating in order to do an “anal interrogation.” Could they come up with a more terrifying name for that?

I went into surgery 2 weeks later on November 8. That’s correct – I had to have ass surgery on the day of the 2016 US election.

During surgery, they would determine the cause of my symptoms and perform the appropriate procedure. It was scary enough to be on an operating table for the first time (and have it be butt-related), but it was worse not knowing exactly what the problem was or how it would be fixed. I remember being wheeled into the operating room, flipped onto the table, and crying for the first time in a long time. I had been feeling so hopeless for 9 months that I had almost become numb. Also, crying literally hurt my ass.

I woke up feeling euphoric. I was alive, and it was over. My surgeon explained that she discovered a small fistula, performed a fistulotomy, and that it couldn’t have gone better.

In the days after the surgery, I experienced almost no pain. I took very low doses of Vicodin in order to prevent constipation as much as possible. On day 3, I had my first BM. It was one of the worst experiences of my life – scary, painful, and bloody. From that point on, every BM was less horrific than the last.

I stayed home from work for about a week. During my post-op appointment, my surgeon said the incision was healing perfectly and that I would be 100% very soon. That was my last appointment, and I’ve had no issues since.

Happy to answer any questions about my experience. Best of luck to all of you! Stay strong!
PrincessPeach
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Re: Fissure + Fistula Success Story

Postby beckyvp » 13 Jul 2017, 12:38

Hi! I'm at wits end and turned to this support group for some insight. I've been dealing with fissure pain for over a year now. I went to the doctor with severe anxiety thinking I had cancer because I would see blood when I would wipe after BM's. They referred me to a surgeon who did a colonoscopy that came out clear. He diagnosed me with fissures but said they look as if they were healing so he didn't think I needed surgery. He gave me the cream but that just gave me a headache and offered very little relief. As of right now my symptoms are: A feeling as if my anus wont relax enough to let stool pass and if my stool isn't extremely soft them it feels as if it's "tearing" and almost always has a slight burning feeling. I'm at wits end, I have an appt with my family doctor next week and i'm going to ask him to refer me to a specialist... I feel because this is now considered "chronic" that these are not going to heal on their own.
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Re: Fissure + Fistula Success Story

Postby PrincessPeach » 14 Jul 2017, 02:36

Hi beckyvp, sorry to hear you've been dealing with the pain for a year.

Hang in there, chronic fissures can still heal! I also experienced a burning feeling after BMs while I was still healing. The cream won't provide any short term relief, but hopefully over time will help relax involuntary muscle spams.

I think it's a good idea to get the referral from your family doctor. In the mean time, you could try to keep BMs ideal – look at the Bristol Stool Chart and do anything you can to get them to be a 4 as often as possible (diet changes, fiber supplements, and/or stool softeners).

Finding ways to relax also helped me. Whether it's baths, infrared saunas, massage, meditation, yoga (if it doesn't hurt), or anything else that works for you. Whatever you can do to help to relax muscles overall might also help reduce the stress of dealing with fissures.

Take care and good luck!
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Re: Fissure + Fistula Success Story

Postby julianalconte » 10 Aug 2017, 07:13

Thanks for sharing your story! How long did you have pain, and blood after surgery? I'm going on two weeks from surgery and I'm still hoping things will get better from here. I also worry my stools aren't "soft" enough. What did you try to keep yours at on the Bristol stool chart?
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Re: Fissure + Fistula Success Story

Postby PrincessPeach » 13 Aug 2017, 14:17

Hi Julianalconte, I had pain and blood for about a week after surgery. During the following weeks, I still experienced some discomfort after BMs, as well as drainage from the fistula. After about a month, it was more of an awareness rather than pain or discomfort. I tried to keep BMs at a 4 on the chart, but in reality they were somewhere between 3–5. Hope you heal quickly!
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