What Is a Fissure? - Definition, Signs, Symptoms & Treatment

What Is a Fissure? - Definition, Signs, Symptoms & Treatment
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  • 0:05 What Is a Fissure?
  • 0:56 Anal Fissures
  • 2:38 Foot Fissures
  • 4:04 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Virginia Rawls

Virginia has a master' degree in Education and a bachelors in Sports Medicine/athletic Training

A fissure is a crack or tear in the skin. It is a common condition that can be easily treated if caught early. This lesson discusses what a fissure is, signs and symptoms of fissures, and treatment options.

What is a Fissure?

Have you ever had chapped lips? Think about the last time you had really bad chapped lips. You probably could see that your lips were drying out and starting to crack. If you let them continue to dry out, they get larger and even begin to bleed. This is an example of a type of fissure that can occur in your body.

A fissure is a crack or tear in the skin. Please do not confuse this with a cut; it is not the same thing. A fissure occurs when the skin begins to separate and then pulls apart. If left untreated, these fissures can develop into ulcers. Ulcers are large open wounds in the skin. Ulcers can affect just the layers of the skin, but if left untreated can affect the underlying muscle and bone tissue.

The two most common fissures that occur in the body are anal fissures and foot fissures.

Anal Fissures

Anal fissures are tears in the lining of the anus. The anus is the last segment of the digestive system and is the opening where feces are passed out of the body.

Anal fissures are caused by:

  • Prolonged diarrhea
  • Prolonged constipation
  • Constantly straining to pass bowel movements
  • Poor cleaning habits
  • Anal sex
  • Overly tight sphincter muscles around the anus
  • Pregnancy and vaginal childbirth
  • Cancer of the rectum
  • Other medical conditions (inflammatory diseases and sexually transmitted diseases)

The signs and symptoms of anal fissures include:

  • Anal pain during and after bowel movements
  • Blood in stool
  • Blood on used toilet paper
  • Burning and itching around and in the anus
  • Visible cracks or tears around the anus

The signs that anal fissures have become infected include:

  • Increased pain
  • Redness
  • Oozing from the fissures
  • Fever

Anal fissures can be diagnosed by a physician during a visual exam. Once diagnosed, treatment can begin. Treatments vary depending on what is causing the fissures. Patients who do not properly clean the area can be given education on how to do this. If the fissures are caused by diarrhea or constipation, medications can be given to relieve the symptoms. Medicated creams can also be prescribed to help with pain relief and help the fissures heal properly. Botox can be injected into areas around the anus for patients who have overactive sphincter muscles. If the fissures still do not heal with these treatments, then the patient will have surgery to correct the defects.

Foot Fissures

Foot fissures are tears and cracks on the bottom of the foot, typically on the heels. These fissures can develop for several reasons. Since the foot is affected, foot fissures then can become a breeding ground for viral and bacterial infections.

Foot fissures can be caused by:

  • Excessive dry skin
  • Diabetes (circulation problems)
  • Thyroid problems
  • Obesity
  • Skin problems (athlete's foot, eczema, and psoriasis)
  • Corns and calluses
  • Not wearing shoes for prolonged periods of time or wearing improper shoes
  • Age (middle-aged and geriatric ages are more prone to foot fissures)

The signs and symptoms of foot fissures include:

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