Why Does It Burn When I Poop?

Pain during a bowel movement is common but shouldn't be ignored

The digestive tract is a tube that runs between the mouth and the anus. You take in food and drink in the mouth, they are broken down in the stomach, nutrients are absorbed in the intestines, and the remains and waste products leave the body through the anus. Plenty of things can go amiss with digestion.

One common problem is pain, discomfort, or burning while having a bowel movement (pooping). When this happens on occasion, it might not be a reason to be concerned. However, if it’s happening often or along with other symptoms, it could be a reason to see a healthcare provider to find a possible cause.

This article will discuss the potential reasons for burning while defecating, when to see a healthcare provider, and how it might be treated.

Person enters bathroom carrying toilet paper

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Possible Causes

There are several reasons for a burning sensation while having a bowel movement (pooping). The most typical reasons are common problems that are treatable. It's also common to feel a burning sensation during defecation if you have recently eaten spicy foods containing hot peppers.

Constipation

Constipation is when stool is dry, hard, and difficult to pass. People who are constipated may poop fewer than three times a week. Being constipated and straining to have a bowel movement could be a cause of burning or pain while pooping.

The symptoms of constipation include:

  • Abdominal bloating or distention
  • Feeling like there is more stool even after pooping
  • Having to bear down and strain to pass stools
  • Needing to be on the toilet a long time to poop
  • Pooping fewer than three times a week
  • Stools that are dry and hard

Constipation is common and it might be treated with at-home remedies. Some of these include:

  • Drinking enough water
  • Eating enough fiber or taking fiber supplements
  • Getting enough physical activity, such as walking
  • Going to the bathroom when you feel the urge (not “holding it”)
  • Over-the-counter (OTC, without a prescription) laxatives

When constipation doesn’t go away or get better with making some changes, it may be time to see a healthcare provider. Medication might be prescribed if constipation doesn’t improve with at-home remedies or OTC laxatives.

If the problem is ongoing (chronic) or doesn’t get better with treatment, consider getting tested to see what’s causing it.

Diarrhea

Diarrhea is loose, watery stool that may occur several times a day. Diarrhea might cause burning and pain, especially if the skin around the anus (the perianal area) becomes irritated.

Symptoms of diarrhea can include:

  • Abdominal pain or cramping
  • Going to the toilet more frequently
  • Stools that are loose or watery

Diarrhea is common and could happen for many reasons, such as an infection, food poisoning, before/during a menstrual period, a change in diet, or a stressful event. It may be possible to treat diarrhea at home.

This can include:

  • Avoiding foods that could worsen diarrhea (such as fried foods or greasy foods)
  • Drinking enough water
  • OTC diarrhea medications

When diarrhea goes on for longer than three days or there are symptoms such as vomiting, nausea, or bloody stools, it may be time to see a healthcare provider. They may do testing to look for the cause, which could be a virus or bacterium, or a more long-lasting reason.

Endometriosis

Endometriosis is a condition caused by tissue that’s similar to the tissue lining the uterus (womb) growing outside of the uterus. This tissue could grow in the ovaries, fallopian tubes, behind the uterus, or the urinary tract or intestines. In more severe endometriosis, bowel movements could be affected, causing diarrhea, constipation, or pain.

The signs and symptoms of endometriosis can include:

  • Constipation
  • Diarrhea
  • Infertility
  • Painful intercourse
  • Pain while urinating
  • Period cramps or pain
  • Periods with heavy bleeding

Treatment for endometriosis can include hormonal birth control (“the pill”) or other medications. Sometimes, surgery to remove the tissue is the treatment that’s used.

Getting diagnosed with endometriosis can take a long time and be difficult. Having the symptoms of endometriosis that don’t get better with home remedies is a reason to see a healthcare provider and ask about this common condition.

Hemorrhoids

Hemorrhoids are a common condition that can lead to pain while going to the bathroom. However, some people with hemorrhoids have no pain. Hemorrhoids occur when the veins in the rectum and/or the anus become swollen and painful. They can bleed and cause discomfort, especially when having a bowel movement or when wiping.

Typical symptoms of hemorrhoids are:

  • Bleeding (blood might be seen on the toilet paper or the stool)
  • Feeling as though there is “something” in the anus or rectum
  • Itching in or around the anus
  • Pain in or around the anus
  • Pain while having a bowel movement
  • Rectal pain

Treating hemorrhoids begins with home and over-the-counter (OTC) remedies to reduce the swelling and the pain. Some of the ways that they may be treated include:

  • Avoiding wiping after a bowel movement but instead using a peri bottle (a water-filled squirt bottle designed to reach the perianal area) or a bidet (a bathroom fixture or toilet attachment that sprays water on the perianal area)
  • OTC creams or ointments to reduce swelling and pain
  • Treating any underlying diarrhea or constipation
  • Using sitz baths (sitting in a shallow pan of warm water for 10 or more minutes)
  • Using medicated wipes or witch hazel after bowel movements

When hemorrhoids don’t respond to any at-home treatments or there is significant pain, blood, or other symptoms, it’s time to see a healthcare provider. They may prescribe stronger creams or ointments than those that are available over the counter or offer other treatment options, such as surgery, if needed.

Anal Tear

A tear in the skin of the anal canal (called an anal fissure) can be painful and cause a burning sensation while having a bowel movement. The tear can happen while straining to have a bowel movement or passing a hard stool. There are also other reasons and risk factors for anal fissures, and they tend to be common in children.

The symptoms of an anal fissure can include:

  • Bleeding from the rectum
  • Pain or burning during bowel movements
  • Pain or tenderness in the anal area
  • Pain that may last for hours after a bowel movement

Treating an anal fissure attempts to relieve the pain and burning while the fissure heals. It can also include treating the reason for the fissure, such as constipation. 

At-home remedies can include:

  • Adding Epsom salts (magnesium sulfate) to a regular bath or a sitz bath
  • Avoiding wiping after a bowel movement but instead using a bidet or a peri bottle
  • Taking stool softeners to make stools easier to pass
  • Using a sitz bath

Anal fissures are common and they usually heal with treatments at home and don’t happen again. Seeing a healthcare provider when there is pain while having a bowel movement is important for diagnosing an anal fissure as the cause and getting treatment.

Blood in or on the stool is also a reason to see a healthcare provider and to discover that is from an anal tear and not another cause.

Inflammatory Bowel Disease

The inflammatory bowel diseases (IBD, including Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, and indeterminate colitis) are immune-mediated conditions that cause inflammation in the digestive system and other areas of the body. IBD may cause diarrhea and/or constipation, depending on how the disease is expressing itself. 

There are many symptoms of IBD, which can include:

  • Abdominal pain and cramps
  • Bloating
  • Diarrhea
  • Lack of appetite
  • Mouth sores
  • Mucus in the stool 
  • Nausea
  • Rectal bleeding
  • Stomach pain
  • Unintended weight loss
  • Urgent bowel movements

Diarrhea, constipation, fissures, and abscesses (walled-off pockets of infection and pus) could all lead to pain while having a bowel movement. For IBD, the goal is to get underlying inflammation under control. This will help prevent complications and some of the symptoms that occur with IBD.

Treatments include medication, lifestyle changes, and complementary therapies. People with IBD should contact a healthcare provider when they notice new symptoms or when symptoms get worse. There could be a need to change medications, increase the dosage or frequency of current medications, or add another medication.

IBD is a lifelong condition, so it’s important to see a gastroenterologist (a specialist in conditions of the digestive system), visiting them on a regular basis, usually yearly or twice yearly when doing well.

Cancer

Colon cancer and rectal cancer begin with growths on the inner wall of the intestine called polyps. Polyps can grow large and become cancerous. They also may bleed, cause a blockage in the intestine, or grow into other organs.

Pain during a bowel movement can occur with colon or rectal cancer. It may be more common in rectal cancer. 

The symptoms of colon and rectal cancer can include:

  • Anal discharge
  • Blood in or on the stools
  • Change in bowel habits (pooping more or less frequently)
  • Constipation
  • Diarrhea
  • Fatigue
  • Growths in the anal canal
  • Pain, irritation, or itching in the anal area
  • Unintended weight loss

Treatments for colon and rectal cancer can include surgery, radiation, chemotherapy, or immunotherapy. The way the cancer is treated will be tailored to each person, the type of cancer they have, and the stage/extent.

Some people may be concerned that burning while pooping is automatically colon cancer. While it can be a symptom, cancer is not the most common reason. One of the many reasons to see a healthcare provider about burning while pooping is to rule out more serious causes, such as cancer.

Other

There are other conditions that could cause burning while pooping. Some of these are chronic conditions that can affect many parts of the body.

Some of the other reasons for burning during bowel movements could include:

  • Benign (noncancerous) tumors, cysts, or growths on or around the anus
  • Conditions that could cause skin irritation around the anus such as psoriasis (an autoimmune skin condition) and eczema (an inflammatory skin condition)
  • Genital warts, a sexually transmitted infection (STI), which can be found around the anus

When to See a Healthcare Provider

An occasional change in bowel habits is common and not usually serious. Adults and children will have diarrhea or constipation every so often. However, there are some signs that are a reason to see a healthcare provider.

Some of the reasons to see a healthcare provider about pain in the anus or with a bowel movement include:

  • Black or tarry stools
  • Bloody stools
  • Constipation that is ongoing (chronic)
  • Diarrhea that goes on for three days or more
  • Lumps or bumps in or around the anus
  • Severe abdominal pain or cramps

How to Maintain Bowel Health

You may not think about your bowels until you are having a problem. However, taking care of the bowel is something that can help in making sure that bowel movements are soft, painless, and easy to pass

To support a healthy bowel, people might consider these lifestyle changes:

  • Chew food well
  • Develop good sleep routines
  • Drink enough water
  • Eat enough fiber
  • Manage stress levels
  • Talk to a healthcare provider about taking a probiotic (strains of friendly bacteria that are normally present in a healthy gut)

Summary

There are many common and treatable reasons for burning or pain while pooping, including constipation, diarrhea, hemorrhoids, and anal tears. If the pain is persistent or is occurring along with other symptoms, especially bleeding, see a healthcare provider to get a diagnosis and treatment.

A Word From Verywell

Pain while having a bowel movement can be alarming. Anal tears and hemorrhoids, in particular, can be quite painful. However, the causes for burning while pooping are varied, and many are treatable.

Get checked out by a healthcare provider for the pain, especially when there are other symptoms or it keeps occurring. It’s important that a healthcare provider looks at the anal area to see the cause of the pain. If there’s nothing found to explain the pain, they should do more tests. 

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Is it normal for diarrhea to burn?

    Diarrhea itself is not normal, though it is common and can come on for many reasons. It may or may not cause pain or burning. Diarrhea is stool that is moving too quickly through the intestines. You may also feel burning due to irritation of the skin around the anus caused by increased wiping after defecation. 

  • What does IBS poop look like?

    Normal bowel movements are on a spectrum of shapes and sizes. Constipation and diarrhea are on either end of this spectrum and are considered to be outside of what is healthy.

    Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) can cause both diarrhea and constipation, so there is no single type of “IBS stool." A healthcare provider can go over the different types of stool, maybe using the Bristol Stool Chart to help you to understand.

  • Does pooping with a hemorrhoid hurt?

    Some hemorrhoids don’t cause any pain but others can be quite painful. Diarrhea or constipation can add to the pain. The pain may be worse during a bowel movement, but it may also hurt at other times, such as when sitting. Pain from hemorrhoids may also last for some time after a bowel movement.

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6 Sources
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