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Haemorrhoids (also spelt hemorrhoids), or 'piles', are lumps that occur inside and around the anal passage (back passage) which contain swollen and enlarged blood vessels.

Haemorrhoids are common, and are often associated with constipation. Other risk factors for developing haemorrhoids include:

If you have haemorrhoids you may notice bright red blood on the toilet paper or in the toilet when you have a bowel motion. There may be some itchiness, discomfort or pain around the anus. Sometimes there can be a noticeable lump that sticks out of the anus.

Haemorrhoids often go away without any treatment. However, if you notice blood when you have a bowel motion, it is important to get checked out by a doctor, to make sure your symptoms are not a sign of something more serious. The symptoms of haemorrhoids can be very similar to those of bowel cancer.

If treatment is required it often involves making dietary changes, and the use of creams and ointments applied around the anus. More severe cases may require surgery.

The best way to prevent haemorrhoids is to eat a healthy, high-fibre diet, drink plenty of water and exercise regularly.

Just diagnosed

If you have just been diagnosed with haemorrhoids, your doctor has probably suggested that you try to gradually increase your fibre intake. This can be achieved by eating more high-fibre foods such as fruits, vegetables and wholemeal breads and cereals. You may also wish to try a commercial fibre supplement.

If you would like help with making changes to your diet, you could contact a dietitian or nutritionist who can put together a healthy eating plan for you. For more information, and to find an accredited practising dietitian in your area, visit the Dietitian’s Association of Australia website.

If your haemorrhoids are quite severe, or they have not responded to simple treatment, your doctor may suggest a procedure, such as rubber band ligation (banding). Surgery may be necessary for large or complicated haemorrhoids. The idea of having surgery is often very confronting. Don’t be afraid to ask your doctor or surgeon questions about the possible risks and benefits of the surgery they have suggested.

For more information about treatment for haemorrhoids visit the Colorectal Surgical Society of Australia and New Zealand website.

Living with

Haemorrhoids often settle down quickly after a few days and do not require any special treatment.

If your haemorrhoids are causing you pain or discomfort ask your doctor or chemist about medicated creams or ointments that may ease your symptoms.

Having a bowel movement can be uncomfortable or painful if you have haemorrhoids. It may help to:

  • avoid straining when you are having a bowel movement
  • avoid spending a lot of time on the toilet, as this can lead you to strain too much
  • not read or do puzzles while you sit on the toilet (see above)
  • pat the area around your anus when you wipe, rather than rubbing it
  • use moist toilet paper or a baby wipe instead of dry toilet paper.

Facts & figures

  • Haemorrhoids are often described as ‘varicose veins’ of the anal passage.
  • People have been seeking treatment for haemorrhoids for thousands of years, and procedures to remove haemorrhoids have been around since about 460 B.C.
  • Haemorrhoids are a common problem treated by doctors in Australia.
  • Around Australia, over 300,000 cases of haemorrhoids are treated each year.

Not sure what to do next?

If you are still concerned about your haemorrhoids, why not use healthdirect’s online Symptom Checker to get advice on when to seek medical attention.

The Symptom Checker guides you to the next appropriate healthcare steps, whether it’s self care, talking to a health professional, going to a hospital or calling triple zero (000).

Learn more here about the development and quality assurance of healthdirect content.

Last reviewed: September 2017

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