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Dr Roger Henderson
Reviewed by Roger HendersonReviewed on 29.04.2024 | 3 minutes read

Haemorrhoids are common and many refer to them as piles. They are enlarged blood vessels just inside or outside the anus, and they look like small red or purple lumps. You might find blood after you go for a poo (this will be bright red blood, and seen on wiping or on the stool), or you can get pain and itching around the anus. For the majority of people, they cause no symptoms at all.

Sometimes haemorrhoids can become thrombosed, which means they have no blood flow due to a blood clot. These are very painful and tender to touch. Haemorrhoids are not contagious, and cannot be passed on.

Doctor’s advice

Does sitting on a cold floor cause hemorrhoids? How can I help myself?

It's a myth that sitting on cold floors or outdoor benches can cause haemorrhoids. What does increase the risk is anything that increases pressure in your abdomen, as this in turn increases the pressure in the blood vessels in and around the anus. Commonly constipation is to blame, as you have to strain to do a poo. Pregnancy and obesity are also common risk factors for haemorrhoids.

You can help prevent haemorrhoids or prevent them from getting worse by addressing any possible constipation - increase fibre, green vegetables, exercise and keep hydrated. Weight loss would help if that's an issue, as you'll reduce pressure on the blood vessels. Haemorrhoids in pregnancy usually settle once your baby is born.

Healthwords pharmacists' top tips

Several products help to treat haemorrhoids specifically. Anusol helps to relieve the swelling, itch and irritation of internal and external haemorrhoids. Internal haemorrhoids, those just inside the entrance to the bowel, are best treated with suppositories. If haemorrhoids are particularly swollen, products containing a steroid such as Anusol HC suppositories or cream may help to bring down localised swelling and inflammation.

Other products for piles may address the pain of haemorrhoids as they contain a local anaesthetic to numb the area, such as Germoloids ointment.

If constipation is the cause, try treatments to soften the stools, so that they can pass more easily. Lactulose solution is a gentle laxative that works by drawing more water to pass into the bowel and wetting and softening stools to allow them to pass more easily. This can take a day or two to work, so is more helpful if constipation has lasted a few days. And you need to drink more to help it work at its best.

A glycerol (or glycerin) suppository may be more direct and faster, It softens stool in the rectum, allowing the stool to pass out easily. Another type of laxative is a stool softener such as Dulco-Ease, which contains docusate sodium. This type of laxative softens stools by allowing water and fats in so, again, the stool is softer and easier to pass.

Am I fit for work?

You are fit for work if you have haemorrhoids.

When should I see my doctor?

You should see your doctor if you have any pain, any large amounts of bleeding or if you have not had haemorrhoids diagnosed before. You should also see your doctor if you have any symptoms of weight loss, night sweats or altered bowel habit.

The doctor will ask about your medical history and your symptoms. With your permission, they will examine the area around your anus and will tell you if you have haemorrhoids. If your haemorrhoids are causing very severe problems, the doctor may refer you for treatment at the hospital.

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Dr Roger Henderson
Reviewed by Roger Henderson
Reviewed on 29.04.2024
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