How to Get Rid of Hemorrhoids: Types, Causes, and Treatments

August 2019

By Charles Patrick Davis, MD, PhD


What Are Hemorrhoids?
Hemorrhoids are clumps of dilated (enlarged) blood vessels in the anus and lower rectum. The rectum is the last area of the large intestine before it exits to the anus. The anus is the end of the digestive tract where feces leaves the body.

Sometimes hemorrhoids swell when the veins enlarge and their walls become stretched, thin, and irritated by passing stool. Hemorrhoids are classified into two general categories:

  • internal, originating in the rectum, and
  • external, originating in the anus.

Hemorrhoids (also termed piles) have caused pain and irritation throughout human history. The word comes from Greek, “haimorrhoides,” meaning veins that are liable to discharge blood. If you’ve had a bout of hemorrhoid pain, you’re not alone. It’s estimated that three out of every four people will have hemorrhoids at some point in their lives. Even Napoleon suffered from hemorrhoids, which distracted him with severe pain during his defeat at Waterloo.

Enlarged Hemorrhoid Symptoms
Enlarged hemorrhoids are associated with symptoms such as

  • itching,
  • mucus discharge,
  • burning at the anus,
  • severe pain,
  • a sensation that the bowel is not really empty, and
  • bleeding without pain.

In this article, our medical experts will explain where hemorrhoid pain comes from, what hemorrhoids feel like, and how they are diagnosed. Then you will discover the various treatments for hemorrhoids both at home and at a hospital, along with the positive attributes and drawbacks of each hemorrhoid treatment.

Internal Hemorrhoids
Internal hemorrhoids sit in the inside lining of the rectum and are not obvious unless they are substantially enlarged, in which case they can be felt. Internal hemorrhoids are usually painless and become apparent because they cause rectal bleeding with a bowel movement.

Sometimes internal hemorrhoids prolapse or protrude outside the anus. If so, you may be able to see or feel them as moist pads of skin that are pinker than the surrounding area. These fallen hemorrhoids may hurt because the anus is dense with pain-sensing nerves. Such slipped hemorrhoids usually recede into the rectum on their own. If they don’t, they can be gently pushed back into place.

External hemorrhoids are located underneath the skin that surrounds the anus.

External Hemorrhoids
External hemorrhoids are located underneath the skin that surrounds the anus, and are lower than internal hemorrhoids. They can be felt when they swell, and may cause

  • itching,
  • pain, or
  • bleeding with a bowel movement.

If an external hemorrhoid prolapses to the outside (usually in the course of passing a stool), you can see and feel it.

Blood clots sometimes form within this type of fallen hemorrhoid, which can cause an extremely painful condition called a thrombosis. If a hemorrhoid becomes thrombosed, it can look rather frightening, turning purple or blue, and could possibly bleed.

Despite their appearance, thrombosed hemorrhoids usually are not serious, though they can be very painful. They will resolve on their own in a couple of weeks. If the pain is unbearable, your doctor usually can remove the blood clot from the thrombosed hemorrhoid, which stops the pain.

Whom Do Hemorrhoids Affect?
Although most people think hemorrhoids are abnormal, almost everyone has them. Hemorrhoids help control bowel movements. Hemorrhoids cause problems and can be considered abnormal or a disease only when the hemorrhoidal clumps of vessels enlarge.

Hemorrhoids occur in almost everyone, and an estimated 75% of people will experience enlarged hemorrhoids at some point. However only about 4% will go to a doctor because of hemorrhoid problems. Hemorrhoids that cause problems are found equally in men and women, and their prevalence peaks between 45 and 65 years of age.