Haemorrhoids (often known as piles) are rather like varicose veins in the canal of the anus/rectum.
The anus and lower rectum contain a network of small veins. When a lot of pressure is placed upon these veins (as in women during pregnancy for example) they become engorged with blood. The veins may then be stretched and swell. It is when these small veins become swollen and engorged with blood that haemorrhoids occur.
Haemorrhoids are a common problem and affect around 50% of people at some time in their life. Although uncomfortable and embarrassing it is not normally a serious condition.
There are a number of people who are more at risk of developing haemorrhoids such as:
The common symptoms of haemorrhoids are:
Sometimes haemorrhoids inside the anal canal protrude outside the anus (prolapsing haemorrhoids). At first, the haemorrhoid may go back in itself but later you might need to push it back in yourself using a finger. Protruding haemorrhoids can lead to skin irritation and discomfort and there is usually a mucus discharge.
For most people, the condition is mild and will settle down in a few days without any treatment.
Haemorrhoids caused by pregnancy will usually go away after the baby has been born.
A number of over the counter drug treatments are available which aim to reduce the size of swollen haemorrhoids and also reduce pain and itching.
The products are usually in the form of creams, ointments or suppositories and contain one or more of the following ingredients:
If you are experiencing severe pain or are at all concerned about your hemorrhoids you should contact your GP for advice.
Haemorrhoids are common and preventing them from occurring can be difficult.. However, following a few simple steps may reduce the risk of developing them.
For further advice on haemorrhoids consult your local community pharmacy.
The information provided on this website does not replace medical advice.
If you want to find out more, or are worried about any medical issue or symptoms that you may be experiencing, please contact your local community pharmacist or see your doctor