Fistula, an abnormal channel that forms between the organs of the body

A fistula is an abnormally connected channel between two body cavities that would otherwise be separate. Fistulas can appear in certain parts of the body, such as the vagina and anus, as well as blood vessels. If left untreated, fistulas can cause various disorders in body function and health.

Fistulas can form in various channels or organs of the body, such as the urinary tract, anus, digestive tract, vagina, to the skin. Many parts of the body or blood vessels that are not normally connected, but due to injury, surgery, disease, infection, or inflammation, become connected by a channel.

Common Types of Fistulas

The following are some types of fistulas that can form in the human body:

1. Fgastrointestinal tract

Gastrointestinal fistulas or fistulas in the digestive tract are fistulas or holes that form abnormally in the digestive tract, for example in the stomach and intestines. Fistulas in the digestive tract often occur due to a history of surgery in the abdominal cavity, injuries or puncture wounds in the abdominal cavity and digestive tract, inflammation of the gastrointestinal tract, to the side effects of radiation therapy in the abdominal cavity.

Fistulas in the gastrointestinal tract can cause gastric juices to seep out through the lining of the stomach or intestines. If gastric juice leaks into the skin or other organs of the body, germs from outside the body can enter the body and cause infection.

There are several types of fistulas that can form in the digestive tract, namely:

  • Intestinal fistula, which is a fistula that forms between one part of the digestive tract with another part, for example the large intestine with the small intestine or the stomach with the intestine.
  • Extraintestinal fistula, which is a fistula that occurs when gastric juice leaks from the intestines into other organs of the body, such as the bladder, lungs, or blood vessel system.
  • An external fistula or skin fistula is a type of fistula that forms between the digestive tract and the skin covering the body.

2. Anal fistula

Anal fistula is a small channel that forms between the rectum or the end of the large intestine and the skin near the anus. Anal fistula usually results from an infection near the anus that causes a buildup of pus or an abscess in the surrounding tissue.

The fistula that forms in the anal canal can cause the skin around the anal canal to connect with the anal canal so that feces can come out through the fistula. The only way to treat anal fistulas is through surgery.

Anal fistulas can cause the following symptoms:

  • Irritation of the skin around the anus
  • Pain when sitting, moving, defecating, or coughing
  • Discharge of pus or blood when defecating
  • Difficulty controlling bowel movements
  • The anus is swollen and looks red
  • Fever

In addition to anal fistulas, holes that form in the area around the anal canal can also be formed from the urethra. So, urine can come out through the fistula. This usually occurs because of a urethral stricture.

3. Fistula of blood vessels

A fistula in a vein is also known as an arteriovenous fistula. This fistula is a fistula that forms between an artery and a vein. If blood normally flows from arteries to capillaries and then to veins, fistulas allow blood to flow directly from arteries to veins without passing through the capillaries. As a result, the blood supply to the tissues under the capillaries is reduced.

Arteriovenous fistulas usually occur in the legs, but do not rule out other parts of the body, such as the arms, lungs, kidneys, or brain. If left untreated, this type of fistula can lead to severe complications and damage to surrounding body tissues or organs.

4. Vaginal fistula

A vaginal fistula is a condition when a gap forms in the vaginal cavity with other organs, such as the bladder, colon, or rectum (the lower part of the large intestine near the anus). Vaginal fistulas can cause urine and stool to leak out of the vagina. This condition needs to be treated with surgery.

Vaginal fistulas can result from injury, surgery, infection, side effects of radiation therapy, or certain diseases, such as inflammatory bowel disease and diverticulitis. Vaginal fistulas can also form as a result of a severe tear in the perineum during delivery or an infection in the episiotomy after delivery.

There are several types of vaginal fistulas that you need to know about, including:

  • A vesicovaginal fistula or bladder fistula is a type of fistula that forms between the vagina and the bladder.
  • A ureterovaginal fistula is a fistula that forms between the vagina and the ureter, the tube that carries urine from the kidneys to the bladder.
  • A urethrovaginal fistula is a fistula that forms between the vagina and the urethra or the tube that carries urine out of a woman's body.

In addition to the several types of fistula above, vaginal fistulas can also form between the large intestine or small intestine with the vagina.

5. Vaginal and rectal fistula

Fistulas of the vagina and rectum are also known as obstetric fistulas or rectovaginal fistulas. Due to the formation of a gap between the rectum and the vagina, gas and feces from the digestive tract can be released through the vagina. Uncorrected obstetric fistula can also hinder the process or even increase the risk of maternal death during childbirth.

Fistulas in the vagina and rectum can form due to the following:

  • Injuries during childbirth, such as a severe tear or rupture of the perineum
  • Certain diseases, such as anal abscess, vaginal or anal cancer, inflammatory bowel disease, and Crohn's disease
  • Side effects of radiation therapy in the pelvic area
  • History of surgery in the pelvic, vaginal, or anal area

Some fistulas can close on their own without any treatment. However, this condition generally needs to be treated with surgery.

The purpose of surgery on a fistula is to close the gap or hole that is formed and repair damaged organs or body parts affected by the fistula so that the disturbed organs can function normally again.

If you feel certain complaints due to the fistula, such as abdominal or pelvic pain, bleeding, urine, or stool from the vagina, and there is pus or infection in the vagina or anus, these conditions need to be checked by a doctor.

The doctor will determine the location and type of fistula that you suffer from. After that, the doctor will provide appropriate treatment to overcome the condition.