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What are the symptoms of fistula?
23 Mar 2022
What are the symptoms of fistula? image

A fistula is a connection between two body cavities (such as the rectum and the vagina) that is abnormal or a connection between a body cavity and the skin (such as the rectum to the skin).

A fistula can develop as a result of an abscess, which is a pus-filled pocket in the body. Fistulas occur when there is a breakthrough in the skin, another body cavity, or an organ. The abscess may be constantly filling with body fluids like stool or urine, preventing healing.

Types of fistula

Fistulas are common in the area around the genitals. There are four different forms of fistulas.

  1. Enterocutaneous

The intestine connects to the skin in this sort of fistula. A surgical complication that causes an enterocutaneous fistula is possible.

It normally occurs in an intestine-to-surgery-site-to-skin pathway.

  1. Enteroenteric or Enterocolic

This type of fistula occurs when there are abnormal body connections in the small intestine or large intestine. 

  1. Enterovaginal fistula

This fistula is often regarding and affecting the vagina so a uterovaginal or vesicovaginal fistula is a complication that causes vaginal discharge of succus, urine, or stool, which can cause serious problems.

  1. Enterovesicular 

This fistula connects the urethra to the bladder. These fistulas can lead to urinary tract infections or gas passing into the urethra during urination.

How do you know if you have a fistula?

An anal fistula is usually diagnosed by examining the area around the anus. Your doctor will search the skin for an opening (the fistula tract). Then will try to figure out how deep the tract is and which way it’s heading. Perform a self-examination before going to a doctor, look for signs of a fistula in your body. 

Signs of a fistula

The severity and location of the fistula affect the symptoms so here are some common signs, depending on the type of fistula.

  • Constant urine leakage from the vagina
  • Urinary tract infections (UTIs)
  • Irritation and discomfort in the external female genital organs
  • Leakage of gas and/or faeces into the vagina
  • Fluid drainage from the vagina
  • Pain in abdomen 
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea

Can a fistula heal on its own?

Ninety per cent of fistulas develop as a result of body infection. Bacteria, faeces, or foreign materials can clog an anal gland and tunnel into the tissue around the anus or rectum, where it might eventually gather in an infection.

Fistulas must be treated because fistula tracts do not heal on their own. If the fistula tract is left untreated for an extended length of time, it may develop as a cancer or tumour. However, the majority of fistulas are easy to treat. The tract or fistula can be opened and the space inside can be removed completely.


Fistula treatments differ depending on the location of the fistula and the severity of the symptoms. So patients seek the guidance of gynaecologists, urogynecologists, or colorectal surgeons for fistula closure. Following a fistula diagnosis, a medical specialist will determine the appropriate treatment approach based on the location, size, and signs of the fistula. So surgery may be required for more serious fistula treatment. The most common treatment methods for fistula are:

Non invasive treatment

  • Fibrin glue treatment
  • Plug 
  • Catheters

Surgical treatment 

  • Transabdominal surgery
  • Laparoscopic surgery

Pharmaceutical treatment

Any infection caused by the fistula may be treated with antibiotics or other medications but currently, there is no medicinal way to eliminate fistulas.

Bottom line

While fistulas are a major threat to your health, remember that fistulas have a high success rate so don’t hesitate to get proper treatment at the right time. Moreover, prolonged treatment can lead to cancer or tumours in the specific region. So consult a doctor, get a proper diagnosis and then the treatment if needed.

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