Haemorrhoids, also known as piles, are swellings containing enlarged blood vessels. These swellings are found inside or around the rectum and anus and are not usually painful.
In many cases, haemorrhoids don’t cause symptoms. However, when symptoms do occur, they may include:
- A lump that hangs down outside of the anus, which may need to be pushed back in after passing a stool
- Mucus on the stool
- An itchy bottom
- Soreness, redness and swelling around the anus
- Bleeding (bright red blood) after passing a stool
The exact cause of haemorrhoids is unclear, however, they are associated with increased pressure in the blood vessels in and around the anus causing them to become swollen and inflamed; straining due to long periods of constipation and a lack of dietary fibre. Long term diarrhoea can also make you more vulnerable to getting haemorrhoids.
Other factors include:
- Being overweight
- Getting older age as supporting tissues get weaker with age
- Pregnancy which can place increased pressure on pelvic blood vessels, causing them to enlarge (read
- A family history of haemorrhoids
- Regularly lifting heavy objects
- A persistent cough or repeated vomiting
- Sitting down for long periods of time
- Taking medications containing codeine
Making lifestyle changes to reduce the strain on the blood vessels in and around your anus is often recommended to help prevent haemorrhoids.
These can include:
- Increasing the amount of fibre in your diet
- Drinking plenty of fluid particularly water
- Losing weight if you’re overweight
- Exercising regularly
- Not delaying going to the toilet
- Avoiding or cutting down on caffeine and alcohol
- Avoiding medication that causes constipation such as painkillers that contain codeine
Treatments are also available from the pharmacy that can help ease the symptoms of haemorrhoids such as creams, gels, and suppositories that are applied directly to the back passage. Preparations that soften stools and reduce constipation may also be helpful.
Treatment for haemorrhoids is available through the Minor Ailments scheme.