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Haemorrhoids, also known as piles, are swellings containing enlarged blood vessels found inside or around the bottom (the rectum and anus). Some people with haemorrhoids are reluctant to seek advice; your pharmacy will have a private room where they can provide confidential advice.
In many cases, haemorrhoids don’t cause symptoms and some people don’t even realise they have them. But when symptoms do occur, they may include:
Haemorrhoids aren’t usually painful, unless their blood supply slows down or is interrupted.
The exact cause of haemorrhoids is unclear, but they’re associated with increased pressure in the blood vessels in and around your anus. This pressure can cause the blood vessels in your back passage to become swollen and inflamed.
Many cases are thought to be caused by too much straining on the toilet as a result of prolonged constipation. This is often caused by a lack of fibre in a person’s diet. Chronic (long-term) diarrhoea can also make you more vulnerable to developing haemorrhoids.
Other factors that might increase your risk of developing haemorrhoids include:
Haemorrhoid symptoms often settle down after a few days without needing treatment. Haemorrhoids that occur during pregnancy often get better after giving birth.
Making lifestyle changes to reduce the strain on the blood vessels in and around your anus is often recommended. These can include:
These measures can also reduce the risk of haemorrhoids returning or even developing in the first place.
If the tips above haven’t improved your symptoms you may wish to try medication. There are a number of preparations available.
Creams, ointments and suppositories, which you insert into your bottom, are available from pharmacies without a prescription. They can be used to relieve any swelling and discomfort. There are various treatment options for more severe haemorrhoids.
When should I seek advice?
You should seek advice and arrange an appointment with your GP if you have persistent or severe symptoms of haemorrhoids, or your symptoms don’t get better and you experience pain or bleeding.