Strange things can happen to the human body. One, which had doctors baffled for many years, is a fistula. Doctors have learned so much more about the human body over the past many years, and today, with so much medical knowledge and technology, doctors understand more about the medical problems that once had them confused. Today, fistulas are understood, repairable and treatable where once, they were not.
What Is a Fistula?
A fistula is essentially a tunnel that has been created between two organs of the body, or an organ and the outside world. It is a tunnel, or connection that should not be there, but because it is, fluids and other contaminants can easily flow from one organ to the next or to the outer parts of the body. This can cause major medical problems for the patient, including infection and decaying of the organs affected.
Types of Fistulas
There are a couple of more common fistulas. Although they can basically develop anywhere, the most common are anus to bladder fistulas, anus to vagina fistulas, bladder to vagina fistulas and anal fistulas to the outer layer of skin. These types of fistulas are what doctors will see most often in their office. Doctors speculate that with the anus, it is a common area to develop an abscess and, hence, it is why it is a common place to develop a fistula.
Symptoms of a Fistula
Symptoms of a fistula can be straightforward. If there is a fistula between the anus and the bladder, a patient will more than likely see feces in their urine. If the fistula is traveling from the anus to the outside of the body, the patient will notice feces on the skin where the opening of the fistula ends. There is also usually pain associated with fistulas, fatigue, a possible fever, discomfort and, in many cases, redness and skin irritation.
Potential Problems with a Fistula
Fistulas can cause many problems. For one, the unnerving embarrassment of bodily fluid or matter showing up in an area where it should not. Cross contamination is another major factor associated with fistulas. Infections can occur if feces gets into other parts of the body cavity or organs. There is also the chance that if it is not corrected in a timely manner, the fistula will continue to grow and could destroy more tissue as well as do more damage to other organs.
Treatments for a Fistula
The most common treatment for a fistula is surgery. Before the doctor can repair the fistula, however, he will treat the abscess or infection. Many times, the patient will be put on a strong antibiotic and sometimes an intravenous antibiotic, if the infection is severe enough. After the infection has been treated, the doctor can repair the hole as well as turn the fistula into a simple groove that can heal on its own.
Misconceptions Associated with Fistulas
Years ago, fistulas were associated with dirty people—the result of not taking care of themselves. Although this can be true in developing countries where proper hygiene is not always practiced, this is not necessarily the case. Abscesses can develop for many reasons; because an abscess is the biggest reason for a fistula to develop, it is not always seen in developed countries that fistulas develop from poor hygiene.