Learn About Ailments | Haemorrhoids


Haemorrhoids (or piles) are lumps of tissue in the anus that contain blood vessels and have become enlarged. Haemorrhoids can occur inside the anal cavity or lower rectum or be outside the opening to the anus (prolapsed haemorrhoids). The exact causes of haemorrhoids are unclear but contributory factors can be from lack of dietary fibre, prolonged straining, constipation, obesity, ageing, diarrhoea or pregnancy. Symptoms include blood found in stools, irritation and soreness.

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Watch the haemorrhoids video Causes of haemorrhoids
Symptoms of haemorrhoids Diagnosis of haemorrhoids
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Did you know?
  • 50% of people will experience haemorrhoids during their lifetime
  • Sitting on a cold floor will not give you piles
  • The risk of haemorrhoids increases with age

Haemorrhoids can occur inside or outside the anus. If they are internal, haemorrhoids will develop above the opening of the anus in the back passage. If external, haemorrhoids develop around the outside edge of the anus although this condition (known as perianal haematoma) is rare.

Internal haemorrhoids can vary in size and are classified by a grading system of one to four.

Grade One are small, cannot be seen and occur inside the anal lining. This is the most common type of haemorrhoid.

Grade Two are larger lumps which can be pushed outside the anus when passing a stool only to return inside afterwards.

Grade Three are known as prolapsed haemorrhoids and occur outside the anus. They can be felt as one or more small lumps and can be pushed back in with the finger.

Grade Four are large lumps that stay outside the anus and require treatment by a GP.

External haemorrhoids are itchy small lumps that develop on the outside of the anus. These are less common but if blood clots form they can cause severe pain.

Haemorrhoids are caused by pressure in the blood vessels in the anus and rectum usually when straining to pass stools. The blood vessels then become swollen and inflamed.

There are certain factors that will increase the risks of suffering haemorrhoids such as:

  • Obesity or being overweight
  • Lack of fibre (causing constipation)
  • Persistent diarrhoea
  • Straining to lift heavy objects
  • Pregnancy
  • Being aged 50 years-old or more

Most cases of haemorrhoids are mild and symptoms disappear within a few days. Many people are unaware they have piles and experience no symptoms at all.

Common symptoms of haemorrhoids include:

  • Itchy anus
  • Sore or red anus
  • Straining to pass stools
  • Bleeding after passing a stool
  • Mucus discharge after passing stools
  • Pain or discomfort passing a stool
  • A full bowel that needs emptying
  • Hard lumps around the anus

If your symptoms are severe then a visit to the GP is recommended. Your GP will examine the anus for swollen blood vessels.

You should inform your GP if you've recently lost a lot of weight or have noticed a change in bowel movements. Your GP will ask what colour your stools are and if they contain any blood or mucus.

Internal haemorrhoids may require a rectal examination whereby your GP will use lubricated gloves to feel inside the anus for abnormalities. For a closer inspection they may use an anoscope which is a tube with a small light. Using the anoscope, the GP can take a tissue sample for testing.

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