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Hemorrhoids

Dr Karen Martin
Reviewed by Dr Karen MartinReviewed on 19.10.2023 | 3 minutes read
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Hemorrhoids are common, and many refer to them as piles. They are enlarged blood vessels just inside or outside the anus and look like small red or purple lumps. You might find blood after you go for a poop (this will be bright red blood, 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 hemorrhoids can become thrombosed, which means they have no blood flow due to a blood clot. These are very painful and tender to touch. Hemorrhoids 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 hemorrhoids. 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 poop. Pregnancy and obesity are also common risk factors for hemorrhoids.

Hemorrhoids in pregnancy usually subside once your baby is born. You can help prevent hemorrhoids or them from worsening by addressing any possible constipation - increasing fiber, eating green vegetables, exercising, and keeping hydrated. Weight loss will help if that's an issue, as you'll reduce pressure on the blood vessels.

Healthwords pharmacists' top tips

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

Other products for piles may address the pain of hemorrhoids as they contain a local anesthetic to numb the area, such as Anusol Plus.

If constipation is the cause, try treatments to soften the stools so they can pass more quickly. Movicol 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 quickly. This can take a day or two to work, so it is more helpful if constipation has lasted a few days. And it would help if you drank more to help it work at its best.

A 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 Colace, 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 hemorrhoids.

When should I see my doctor?

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

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 hemorrhoids. If your hemorrhoids are causing very severe problems, the doctor may refer you for treatment at the hospital.

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This article has been written by UK-based doctors and pharmacists, so some advice may not apply to US users and some suggested treatments may not be available. For more information, please see our T&Cs.
Dr Karen Martin
Reviewed by Dr Karen Martin
Reviewed on 19.10.2023
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