Haemorrhoids, also known as piles, are swellings containing enlarged blood vessels inside or around the bottom. They occur in the anal canal, which connects the rectum to the anus, and are possibly as a result of straining on the toilet as a result of prolonged constipation.
They are relatively common and can also be caused by chronic diarrhoea, being overweight or having a family history of haemorrhoids. Pregnant women are susceptible to haemorrhoids because of the increased pressure on pelvic blood vessels.
Often there are no symptoms but they can be characterised by itchy or sore skin around the anus, pain after a bowel movement, traces of blood in stools or on toilet paper or a mucus discharge after passing a stool.
A doctor may want to perform a rectal examination to check for abnormalities in the back passage and in some case an internal examination using a proctoscope may be needed. Haemorrhoids can develop along the anal canal and are classified, on size and severity, from first degree to fourth degree. Some are internal but others may hang down from the anus.
Piles are often mild and get better with simple lifestyle changes to diet and activity rates. Creams, ointments and suppositories, which are available from pharmacies without prescription, can be used to reduce swelling and discomfort but should only be used for five to seven days. A GP may prescribe a corticosteroid cream and painkillers and may refer you to a specialist who can use a range of non-surgical and surgical treatments.
A day procedure called Banding involves placing a very tight elastic ban around the base of a haemorrhoid to cut of its blood supply causing it to fall off in about a week.
Injections, known as sclerotherapy, relieve the pain and harden the tissue of the haemorrhoid so a scar is formed and causing it to shrivel up.
Electrotherapy which targets the haemorrhoid with a small charge of electric current to disrupt its blood supply causing it to shrink can also be used.
About one in ten patients will eventually need surgery which has a range of techniques to deal with differing levels and sizes of haemorrhoid.
To ask a question about a haemorrhoids or to book an appointment, contact our specialist team available Monday – Friday 8am – 6pm and on Saturday from 9am – 1pm.
Our gastrointestinal specialists team have a dedicated and caring approach and will seek to find you the earliest appointment possible with the correct specialist for your needs. If you are self-paying you don’t need a referral from your GP. You can simply refer yourself and book an appointment. If you have medical insurance (e.g. Bupa, Axa PPP, Aviva), you will need to contact your insurer for authorisation for any treatment and, in most cases, you will require a referral letter from your GP. If you do not have a GP, then we have an in-house private GP practice that you can use.Alternatively we can suggest the most appropriate course of action for you to take, given your location and individual circumstance.