Unless you’ve been diagnosed with one or know someone who has been, you’re probably not well versed about fistulas. So what is a fistula? Fistulas are internal connections that have formed between two parts of the body. But these connections are not generally ones that should be there under normal circumstances, which means that they can cause complications to your health. There are actually many types of fistulas, including those that develop between organs as well as those that develop between arteries or veins. Fistula symptoms will be dependent on the location of the fistula.

Female Issues

Fistulas that form between the vagina and another organ are called vaginal fistulas. A vaginal fistula is usually the result of an injury, an infection, radiotherapy, or as a complication from a surgical procedure. Diagnosis of this type of fistula requires a female pelvic exam and is also based on medical history as well as the actual presence of risk factors. MRI, cystoscopy, dye testing, fistulogram, and other scans may also be helpful in diagnosing the condition. Most patients with vaginal fistulas will require surgery, though some cases will be effectively treated with alternative therapies, depending on their exact cause.

Problems From the Rear

An anal fistula develops between the anal canal and the skin near the anus. Symptoms of an anal fistula include rectal pain, bleeding, and discharge during defecation. Other symptoms may occur, as well, such as fever or constipation and the presence of swollen, tender, or reddened tissue surrounding the anus. A physical rectal examination will be required for diagnosis, though some cases will need additional testing. Anal fistulas require surgical intervention such as a fistulotomy, which is the most commonly performed fistula procedure, to be treated. During a fistulotomy, the entire fistula is cut open so that the surgeon can flush out its contents.

It’s in Your Veins

An arteriovenous fistula is the abnormal development of a connection between an artery and a vein, which causes blood to bypass the capillaries and flow from the artery directly into a vein. Some cases occur during fetal development, while the most common cases occur after birth. This may happen if someone has been stabbed or shot, or if they have undergone kidney dialysis, in which case a vein must be pierced during each treatment and may result in damage to the vein and require a surgeon to actually create a fistula to prevent blood clots from forming. Unless the fistula has developed congenitally, it will generally require surgery.

At Coyle Institute, our experts are trained to diagnose and treat fistulas of all forms so that health can be fully restored to our patients.

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