Piles (hemorrhoids) - Frequently Asked Questions


  • What are piles (hemorrhoids) ?
    Each of us have veins around the anus that tend to stretch under pressure. An increased pressure within the abdomen (due to repeated straining at stool, pressure of fetus during pregnancy, obesity etc.) may cause the blood to stagnate and collect in the rectal veins causing them to swell and bulge out of the anal opening. These swollen veins are called as piles or hemorrhoids.
  • What is the difference between internal and external piles (hemorrhoids) ?
    Piles (hemorrhoids) are of two types: internal and external. Internal piles (hemorrhoids) are those, which develop inside the anus. They are usually painless but sometimes may cause a vague discomfort. Slight bleeding may be seen especially if the stools are hard. These piles (hemorrhoids) have a tendency to bulge out of the anal opening when they appear like a bunch of grapes, which is painful. External piles develop at the margins of the anal opening and are painful as the skin around them is sensitive. These may rupture and bleed especially due to repeated friction. When the external piles (hemorrhoids)  become thrombosed (presence of blood clot) it may be felt as a small, painful lump around the anal opening.
  • How are piles (hemorrhoids) caused?
    Piles (hemorrhoids) are usually caused due to increased pressure in the abdomen. The factors that trigger this include:
    • Repeated straining for stool especially in a person who is suffering from long standing constipation.
    • Obesity
    • Pressure of the fetus in pregnant women
    • Any work that requires prolonged standing (for example traffic police, waiters etc.) or lifting heavy things like furniture mover etc.
    • Liver problem like cirrhosis
  • Are piles (hemorrhoids) hereditary?
    Yes, the problem of piles tends to run in families. Therefore if anyone in your family is suffering from piles (hemorrhoids) it is better to take care about your lifestyle and diet. Sedentary lifestyle and low fiber diet tend to further aggravate (make worse) the hereditary factor.


  • Is there a link between constipation and piles?
    Yes, long standing constipation can make a person prone to develop piles or make it worse if it is already present. Therefore, if you are suffering from chronic constipation consult your doctor for treatment. In other words preventing constipation is a good way to prevent piles(hemorrhoids).
  • When should I meet my doctor?
    It is advisable to call your doctor if you have:
    • persistent or heavy rectal bleeding (bleeding from anus)
    • painful or itching piles (hemorrhoids) especially if it interferes with your job performance.
    • abdominal pain.
    • a change in the normal bowel habit lasting more than two weeks.
    • rectal bleeding beginning for the first time at the age of 45.
  • How can I prevent the flare-ups of piles?
    You can easily prevent the flare-ups by preventing constipation. By bringing about a few modifications in your diet and lifestyle you can make a regular pattern for bowel movements and avoid straining at stool, which usually leads to piles (hemorrhoids).

    Some important guidelines include:
    • Add more fiber (like beans, bran, broccoli, salads, fruits etc.) to your diet
    • Drink plenty of liquids (8-10 glasses at least)
    • Have a regular exercise schedule (maybe brisk walking for 20 minutes). Lose weight if you are obese.
    • Train yourself for a regular bowel movement
    • Never ignore an urge for bowel movement
    • Keep the anal area clean. Always wash the area after every motion with a very soft or moist toilet paper. Dry the anal opening with a soft towel.
  • Are piles (hemorrhoids) curable?
    Piles (hemorrhoids) are not curable but can be easily controlled by bringing a few changes in your diet and lifestyle. If you have painful and bleeding piles (hemorrhoids) it is best to consult your doctor as you may require some medication also. In pregnant women, hemorrhoids (occurring just because of pregnancy) are often a temporary problem that usually disappears totally, after childbirth.

  • How commonly does piles occur?
    Piles (hemorrhoids) are common in both men and women. By the age of 50 half of the people develop hemorrhoids to some extent. Although bleeding may occur in some cases, it does not cause any serious problem. But a person suffering from long standing bleeding piles (hemorrhoids) can have anemia. Women usually tend to develop piles (hemorrhoids) during pregnancy because of the pressure of the fetus and hormonal changes, but it is usually a temporary problem and disappears after childbirth.
  • What other methods can be employed to get relief from symptoms?
    Following methods are usually recommended for piles (hemorrhoids) but they should be done only after consulting your doctor.
    • Application of cream or suppositories (bullet-shaped tablets to be inserted into the anus), soothes itching and pain, and diminishes the swelling and bleeding.
    • Cold compresses around the anal region, even ice can be helpful.
    • Little rubber bands can be tied around the hemorrhoids, which might cause them to shrivel and whither away.
    • If hemorrhoids prolapse (appear as lumps around the back passage) then sitting in a warm bath with some salt in it may help, as the salt helps to draw water out of the painful area, whereas an ordinary bath can actually increase the swelling.




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