Haemorrhoids (also referred to as piles) are lumps that appear in or around your anus. They are very common and often go away on their own, after a few days.
What is haemorrhoids?
Haemorrhoids (or piles) are inflamed veins in your lower rectum or anus. They can be internal (inside the rectum) or external (around the anus). You can also have internal and external haemorrhoids at the same time.
What are the symptoms of haemorrhoids?
Haemorrhoids don’t always have symptoms.
Internal haemorrhoids tend to come with less symptoms, are they’re less noticeable and you usually can’t feel them. When you’re passing a stool you may notice some blood but you won’t feel anything. Your haemorrhoid might also protrude, which can be painful.
Symptoms of external haemorrhoids include:
- Itching / irritation in and around your anus
- Anal swelling
- Discomfort / pain around your anus
- Pink (or blue or purple) lumps around your anus
What causes haemorrhoids?
There is no clear cause of haemorrhoids, but some potential causes and risk factors include:
- Recurrent constipation or diarrhoea
- Sitting on the toilet for a long time
- Pushing too hard when on the toilet
- Having anal sex
- A diet low in fibre
- Being obese
- Being pregnant
- Frequent heavy lifting
How is haemorrhoids diagnosed?
If you do feel discomfort from what you think is haemorrhoids, see your doctor. To make a diagnosis, your doctor will ask you about your symptoms.
To help make a diagnosis, you will be given a physical exam or internal inspection, such as an anoscopy, proctoscopy or sigmoidoscopy.
You might be referred for other tests, such as a colonoscopy, if your doctor thinks you may have another condition.
How is haemorrhoids treated?
If you don’t experience any symptoms with your haemorrhoids, they don’t need to be treated as they’ll disappear over time.
However, if your haemorrhoids cause you discomfort, your doctor may recommend some (or all) of the following:
- Over-the-counter medications – such as haemorrhoid cream and pain relievers like ibuprofen or aspirin
- Regular warm baths of the affected area – 10-15 minutes, two or three times a day
- Diet or lifestyle changes – including eating more high-fibre foods
In most cases, by following the above treatments your haemorrhoids will go away in a week.
If your haemorrhoids are particularly painful and don’t go away, you may be recommended rubber band ligation or infrafred coagulation therapy.
In some, severe cases, you may need surgery (such as a hemorrhoidectomy or haemorrhoid stapling) and your doctor can advise you on the surgery that’s right for you.
If you’re unsure what treatment you should go for, or the above treatments don’t work for you, our team of expert specialists are here to help.