What is a fistula?
Fistula is an abnormal tube-like connection that is formed between two different organs or vessels. Abdominal surgery, inflammatory bowel disease, overweight, injury or trauma to the abdomen, and other several conditions can cause a fistula. There are different types of fistulas, and some of them are anal fistula, arteriovenous fistula, enterovesical fistula, vesicovaginal fistula, enterocutaneous fistula, and rectovaginal fistula. An anal fistula is majorly diagnosed in people and can be treated with surgery when the symptoms cause difficulties in daily activities.
However, depending on the opening of the organ or vessel, fistulas are 3 types that are blind, complete, and incomplete. In blind fistula, only one end of the fistula is open and can be called sinus tracts. Whereas, in a complete fistula, both the ends are opened. One can find that the opening of the skin is not connected with any of the internal organs in incomplete fistulas.
Who can suffer from fistula:
Fistula can affect both the genders and every patient with fistula may suffer from serious health concerns. However, People who are at higher risk of suffering a fistula are:
- Individuals with a history of abdominal trauma, injury, or surgery.
- A patient who requires hemodialysis treatment [fistula is made artificially by the surgeons].
- People with a history of anal abscess [collection of pus].
- Patients who are diagnosed with diseases like HIV, cancer, and tuberculosis.
- Individuals who are already suffering from intestinal diseases like inflammatory bowel disease [IBD] and diverticulitis [small pouches in the wall of a large intestine].
- People who are chronic smokers.
- Individuals who are obese [overweight].
Apart from these individuals, people older than 50 years of age are more prone to develop a fistula.
Fistula tips: Lifestyle changes & preventive measures
One can follow the below tips to reduce the risk of developing a fistula and to recover quickly from a fistula.
- Sitz bath: One can have a soaking bath in warm water for 2-3 times a day. This helps an individual to clean all the body parts more effectively than a regular shower. Soaking bath cleanses and moisturizes the skin and other body parts.
- High-fiber rich diet: To avoid strain during bowel movement and to avoid anal infection, one should eat food items that contain high fiber and a few of them are strawberries, apples, avocados, bananas, carrots, and broccoli, etc. These can help in losing weight as well.
- Drink lots of water: Due to fistula, leakage of bowel contents through the skin can happen and lead to dehydration. So, to avoid such things, one should drink plenty of water per day ranging between 3-4 liters of water.
- Regular exercise: 30-60 minutes of regular exercise is necessary for a patient to avoid the risk of developing a fistula and for faster recovery from the anal fistula. Do not get stressed over-vigorous exercises.
- Do not hold bowel movements: One should not hold the urgency of bowel movement as this can lead to the formation of fistula within the intestinal parts and can cause severe pain in the anal region.
- No opioids: One should avoid opioid usage, as this can delay the bowel movement and causes anal fistula.
- Keep clean: Clean the anal region after pooping as it helps to avoid the anal infection and help in reducing the formation of anal fistula.
- Indigestion & constipation: Avoid eating food items that cause indigestion and constipation. Because they can lead to the formation of different types of fistulas. The food items that should be avoided are red meat, fried and fast foods, white bread, milk, and dairy products, etc.
- No spicy & hot foods: Do not eat hot and spicy foods that cause pain & bleeding during defecation. This can lead to fistula formation.
- Small & light meal: Avoid consumption of heavy meals as it can delay the digestion process and cause discomfort for an individual. This may lead to the development of abnormal tubes like a connection between the intestine and other organs.
- Drink juices: One should drink papaya and orange juices to reduce the effects of fistula symptoms. These juices can help for better bowel movements and also reduce anal and intestinal infections.
- No smoking & alcohol: One must avoid smoking as it can cause serious health conditions and can lead to fistulas. However, smoking and alcohol consumption can result in the formation of an abnormal connection between two organs.
A few other tips that can include with the above are:
- Make sure to use all the prescribed medications by the doctor or the surgeon.
- Avoid taking OTC [over-the-counter] medicines without consulting the doctor.
- Consult the doctor immediately if the symptoms aggravate.
Treatment for fistula varies from one type to another. However, the doctor will diagnose the type of fistula and decides whether the patient requires surgery or not. Some of the treatment options for fistula are:
- Medication therapy: Prescription of antibiotics
- Fistulectomy: Surgical removal of fistula canal or fistula tract
- Endovascular embolization: Invasive surgical procedure that blocks the blood supply to the affected area.
- Resection of the involved segment of colon and primary reanastomosis
- Bowel rest
- Resuscitation and electrolyte repletion
Not every patient with a fistula requires surgery; the doctor will evaluate and decide whether the surgery is needed or not. Anyone can get affected by fistula, so one should follow all the instructions and preventive measures to stay away from getting