Haemorrhoids (also spelt hemorrhoids), or 'piles', vary in their severity from person to person. Many people experience no symptoms or very mild symptoms that disappear after a couple of days. Other haemorrhoids are more painful.
When symptoms do occur, they include bleeding, itchiness, discomfort and pain. In some cases, haemorrhoids can enlarge so much that they stick out of the anus. This is known as a ‘prolapse’.
The most common sign of haemorrhoids is bleeding after passing a bowel motion. The blood is bright red and may be seen on the toilet paper or in the toilet bowl. If you have any bleeding after a bowel motion, you should see your doctor.
Check your symptoms with healthdirect’s Symptom Checker to get advice on when to seek medical attention.
Haemorrhoids are classified into four different types based on their severity:
- First degree haemorrhoids often bleed a little bit when you pass a bowel motion, but stay inside the anus and are not usually very painful.
- Second degree haemorrhoids bleed and stick out of the anus when you pass a bowel motion. Once the bowel motion is over, they disappear back inside the anus by themselves.
- Third degree haemorrhoids have to be physically pushed back inside the anus after passing a bowel motion. They may be painful if they are large.
- Fourth degree haemorrhoids are larger lumps that stick out of the anus permanently, and cannot be placed back inside. The blood inside these haemorrhoids may clot and become very painful.
Sources: Australian Family Physician (Publication - Daniel WJ., Anorectal pain, bleeding and lumps), Colorectal Surgical Society of Australia and New Zealand (Haemorrhoids. Modern management), NHS Choices (UK) (Piles (haemorrhoids), Piles (haemorrhoids) - Symptoms)
Last reviewed: July 2015