A haemorrhoid looks like a bulge or small swelling of skin. It is a cushion of blood vessels and bowel-lining tissue. Haemorrhoids (or piles) occur in the anal area and can be internal or external (see picture below). They can cause itchiness around the anus. They may also bleed or cause pain, especially when passing a bowel motion.
Haemorrhoids occur more commonly in people aged over 50, but people of any age can get them. They tend to be more common in males than females. Symptoms include:
- Bulge of skin around anus, which may be painful.
- Irritation or itching around anus.
- Bright red blood on toilet paper, or toilet pan, or around the outside of the bowel motion.
- Pain when passing a bowel motion.
Haemorrhoids are commonly caused by straining to pass a bowel motion, which occurs when you are constipated. Being constipated usually indicates you are not eating enough fibre, and/or drinking enough fluids, especially water.
Other things that may cause haemorrhoids, or make them worse:
- Heavy lifting, or vigorous work or exercise.
- Straining at childbirth
- Being overweight
- Chronic (long -term) cough
- Severe liver disease
- Coughing ,sneezing, vomiting
- Wearing tights
- Cancer of the rectum or pelvic area
Internal haemorrhoid - one that bulges into the rectum
External haemorrhoid - one that bulges around the anus, and sometimes pokes out of the anus.
Special haemorrhoid medicines are available from your Life pharmacist. Usually these are used after passing a bowel motion.
The medicines may be:
- Suppositories or creams that you insert into your rectum to treat internal haemorrhoids.
- Creams that can be smeared directly onto the haemorrhoid (for external haemorrhoids)
These treatments give short-term relief from the pain, itching, inflammation and swelling. They can also relieve the cushion of blood vessels and shrink the haemorrhoid.
Some advanced treatments may be necessary for people who have continuous problems with haemorrhoids. These treatments have to be performed by your doctor.
- Injecting the haemorrhoid this shrinks it but may only have a short-term effect, and needs to be repeated on a regular basis.
- Surgical operation. This is required for a small number of people and is called a haemorrhoidectomy. The haemorrhoids are removed surgically, under general anaesthetic. This requires a short stay in hospital.
External haemorrhoids often disappear within a week. They may leave skin hanging outside the anus. If you think you have haemorrhoids you should:
- Try not to strain when passing a bowel motion.
- Slowly (over weeks) and consistently (every day) increase your intake of high fibre foods, for example cereals, or certain fruits, until your bowel movements soften.
- Drink 6-8 glasses of fluid, preferably water, each day.
- Do regular physical activity, such as gentle walking.
- Relieve haemorrhoids by applying a cold compress to help shrink the blood vessels.
- After passing a motion, wash your anal area with a mild unperfumed soap and warm water, then dab dry. Haemorrhoids can become infected if not kept clean.
- Use wet wipes if toilet paper irritates.
- Soak in warm salt baths, which may give relief from pain.
Piles and pregnancy
Pregnant women can get haemorrhoids more often than other people. They result from internal pressure on blood vessels brought on by the pregnancy and/or by constipation. Drinking more fluids and eating more fibre may help with constipation. Eating fibre and fruit everyday may help to prevent constipation. Regular, gentle, physical activity such as walking also may help.
Haemorrhoids are not the only cause of bleeding from your rectum. Some diseases, such as cancer, ulcerative colitis and crohn’s disease may cause the bowel to bleed.
It is important to see your doctor if you have
- Bleeding from your rectum, with or after a bowel movement. that doesn’t clear up in 2 days.
- Bleeding that goes away but comes back.
- Persistent haemorrhoids, especially when treatment, and following the LIFE CARE tips, does not relieve the symptoms