For as long as I can remember (or at least since that episode of Sex and the City where Charlotte checks herself out with a hand mirror), many of us have been told to get to know our vaginas. But according to a doc, that’s not the only area down there we should be getting up close and personal with. Enter: the at-home anal self exam, which is something we should all be doing about as regularly as we’re giving ourselves breast checks.
“Self-examination, both externally and internally, is key for many body parts and the butt is no exception,” says anal surgeon and founder of Future Method Evan Goldstein, DO, though he acknowledges that it’s not exactly the easiest place to see (even for the most flexible yogis out there). His fix? Grab a hand mirror, or better yet, snap a butt selfie and zoom in—just be forewarned that iPhone photos tend to make things very high definition.
“Regardless of which method you use, first and foremost, you should understand your local anatomy,” says Dr. Goldstein. “There is skin, muscle, and some blood vessels in the anal region. The reason for the exam… is to catch any potential pathologies early on, as well as gain an understanding of each part’s function.”
While every anus looks different (which is why you should intimately get to know your own), there are a few things that healthy ones have in common, says Rafael A. Lugo MD, FACS, the owner and CEO of Lugo Surgical Group:
1. It should look like an even, circular set of “puckered lips” with clear transition between the external skin and the “anal mucosa,” aka the inner lining of your anus.
2. There should be no visible cuts or lesions.
3. The mucosa should be a reddish color.
With that in mind, he explains that any sort of discoloration, unevenness, bumps, or bulging could be a sign that something’s up—particularly if they seem to appear out of nowhere, which is when you want to call up your doc. “Seeing the anus as frequently allows for us to detect a small change sooner,” says Dr. Lugo. “So the benefit [of checking yourself out] is early detection of curable problems, that, if left undiagnosed, can turn into a more serious issue.”
While self exams are great, they don’t take the place of a professional one, so if you do sense that something is wrong, be sure to book an appointment with a doctor. And in the meantime, grab a hand mirror—or an iPhone–and start getting to know yourself in a *whole* new way.
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