What are piles?
8th October 2019
Piles is the layman's term for a condition known as haemorrhoids, which affects the blood vessels in the rectum and anus. Piles is when the tissues inside the anal canal become inflamed, causing painful lumps inside and around your anus.
Symptoms of piles
If you are experiencing any kind of pain then it’s always better to get it checked by a medical professional. Although piles is not usually particularly dangerous and can often get better on their own after a few days, many of the symptoms could also be an indicator of a more serious problem, so it’s important to get it diagnosed by your GP.
Symptoms of haemorrhoids include:
Pain in and around the anus
Lumps around the anus
Blood after you pass a stool (bright red in colour)
Itching around the anus
Feeling like you still need to poo even after passing a stool
Mucus on the toilet paper after you’ve wiped, or in your underwear after going to the toilet.
Symptoms usually clear up within a few days (with or without treatment) but if you are noticing persistent symptoms (especially if you’re noticing blood after going to the toilet) then you should seek advice from a doctor.
What’s the difference between internal and external haemorrhoids?
Although both are technically the same conditions, haemorrhoids can be split into internal or external, based on which area of the anal canal is inflamed. Internal haemorrhoids occur in the upper ⅔ of the anus and are covered by the same kind of cells as those that line the intestines. External haemorrhoids appear right near the opening to the anus and are covered by cells that look like normal skin.
Based on this, it is normal to expect that external haemorrhoids are visible and internal ones are not. However, there is another category of piles which occurs when you develop internal haemorrhoids, and then they prolapse and push out of the anus. These can often be pushed back in, but they generally cause more pain than normal internal or external piles.
What causes piles?
The tissues that become haemorrhoids are always present in the body, but when there is an increase in pressure, they swell and bulge.
Things that can cause an increase in pressure in the anus include constipation, diarrhoea, straining when passing a stool, pregnancy or lifting something heavy. They can also be caused by sitting on the toilet for too long.
How do I treat piles?
Often, symptoms of haemorrhoids go away on their own, once the pressure in the blood vessels in the anus has gone back to normal. However, piles often require treatment, which is available over-the-counter or on prescription.
There are a number of creams and ointments you can use to shrink the swollen tissue, decrease inflammation and help to kill any pain you may be experiencing. Effective prescription medications include Uniroid, Perinal and Scheriproct, while popular brands of over the counter haemorrhoid treatments include Anusol and Germoloids.