Symptoms of anal fistulas in both males and females include fever, pain, a general poor feeling, itching and tenderness, according to About.com. Other symptoms include foul-smelling discharge or pus. A fistula is difficult to treat in some cases, as stool may constantly pass over it. If treatment does not occur, the fistula may break through the skin, another organ or into another body cavity.
Doctors diagnose anal fistulas by colonoscopy, barium enema, endoscopy or sigmoidoscopy, explains About.com. A fistulogram is another test that doctors use, and in this test, a doctor injects dye into the fistula, and then the doctor takes X-rays. If the fistula is in the rectum, the doctor injects the dye there, but the patient must hold the dye inside until the X-rays are complete.
Medicinal treatments for anal fistulas include antibiotics, such as Flagyl, and immunosuppressants, such as 6-MP, states About.com. An enteral diet, which is liquid nutrition that replaces solid food, may also work to treat anal fistulas, as there is less stool that passes through the anus, which helps the fistula begin healing. If the fistula does not respond to medical treatments or a change of diet, surgery may be necessary. In most cases, after successful treatment, the fistula should not re-occur.