A fistula is an abnormal connective tunnel created between two existing body cavities by ruptured abscesses. Fistulas most commonly occur in people suffering from Crohn's disease or ulcerative colitis and are most often found around the genitals and anus. However, while often uncomfortable and difficult to self-diagnose, fistulas are actually quite treatable with a number of noninvasive methods. In fact, when treating fistulas, surgery is often a last option.
Have your fistula diagnosed. The symptoms of fistulas include pain, fever, pus drainage or foul-smelling discharge. If you experience these symptoms, see your doctor immediately. The diagnostic tests for fistulas are only moderately invasive and involve either a Barium enema, a sigmoidoscopy, a colonoscopy or a fistulogram.
Medicinal treatment. Once properly diagnosed, many fistulas can be healed using a course of medication that will eliminate the abscess. These include the antibiotic Flagyl, the immunosuppressant 6-MP or the drug Remicade. The type of medication that you receive will largely depend on the underlying cause of your fistula.
An enteral diet. If your fistula involves perforation of the anal cavity, treatment may involve an enteral diet. An enteral diet is a liquid diet which is fortified with the necessary vitamins and other nutrients. By avoiding solid food, you will reduce the amount of solid fecal matter passing through the colon and encourage the fistula to heal.
Surgery. When fistulas fail to respond to medication or an enteral diet, surgery is often required. The type of surgery largely depends on the location of the fistula and may include removal of the fistula and part of the infected organ or stool diversion through an ileostomy.