Although haemorrhoids are an extremely common medical condition, they aren’t a serious health problem. However, they can still be painful and uncomfortable to live with and often require treatment. More importantly, they can mimic other conditions that are more serious such as inflammatory bowel disease or cancer.
If you’re wondering whether or not you have haemorrhoids, below you’ll discover 5 signs to look out for:
Haemorrhoid symptoms: bleeding from the rectum
One of the most common symptoms of haemorrhoids is bleeding from the rectum. You may find after having a bowel movement, there is bright red blood in your stools, in the bowl or on the toilet seat.
Any new complaints of bleeding from the rectum should be investigated by a doctor. While it could be a sign of a haemorrhoid, it could also point to a potentially more serious condition such as colon cancer or inflammatory bowel disease that requires referral to a specialist.
Haemorrhoid symptoms: pain or discomfort around the anus
Haemorrhoids can also cause a painful swelling around the anus. This could be due to a blood clot forming under the skin which is common and called a “perianal haematoma”. Rarely the haemorrhoid can get trapped by the sphincter muscles and resulting in increased pressure within the swollen tissues, leading to inflammation and what is called a “thrombosed haemorrhoid” which requires more urgent treatment.
Pain around the anus most commonly is due to an “anal fissure” which is a tear in the anus caused by constipation and straining. Most cases heal without any treatment but they can become chronic and require treatment with special topical creams not available over the counter or surgery.
Like bleeding, any pain in or around the anus should be checked out by a doctor to make a diagnosis and seek the correct treatment. It’s also important to note that most haemorrhoids are not painful.
Haemorrhoid symptoms: lump in or around the anus
One of the more obvious signs of a haemorrhoid is a lump either inside the anus or around it. You’ll typically notice the lump protruding out of the anus whilst opening your bowels. This might disappear after your bowel movement or require to be gently pushed back. In advanced cases, the lumps are permanently outside your anus and can cause bleeding and leakage.
It is important to note that these lumps are not to be confused with skin tags that are common around the anus. Skin tags do not require any treatment unless they are large and troublesome.
Haemorrhoid symptoms: anal itching
A less common sign of a haemorrhoid is anal itching. While occasional itching could simply be a sign that you haven’t wiped properly, if the itching is frequent, it could be down to a haemorrhoid.
Haemorrhoids symptoms: anal leakage
A less common sign of haemorrhoids is leakage of mucous from the anus. This is because the swollen haemorrhoids inside or outside the anus leak mucous. It is, however, important to see a doctor to be sure that there are no other serious causes for leakage particularly if you are above 60 years old.
These are the most common symptoms to watch out for. However, it is important to seek a medical diagnosis as many of the symptoms above could point to another condition.
Choosing the best haemorrhoids treatment
Once a haemorrhoid has been diagnosed, patients have several treatment options. Firstly, there’s a number of treatments you can pick up over the counter without a prescription such as creams and ointments. They’re a short-term treatment which may be useful for treating very mild haemorrhoids.
Banding is another treatment option which involves tying an elastic band around above the haemorrhoid, resulting in shrinkage and improvement in your symptoms within a few weeks. It’s a simple yet very effective procedure which does not require anaesthetic and can be repeated.
Surgical treatment options include:
- Haemorrhoidectomy where they are removed. This has good results with a low failure rate but is quite painful for the first 1-2 weeks.
- Transanal haemorrhoidal dearterialisation (THD) or haemorrhoidal artery ligation (HALO) is less painful but does have recurrence rate and is not suitable for very large haemorrhoids
- Stapled haemorrhoidectomy, is an alternative to a conventional haemorrhoidectomy that is considered less painful. It is has a small risk of rectal perforation and persistent anal pain that has prevented it from becoming a popular treatment.
- Newer procedures such as LHP Laser Haemorrhoidplasty, infrared coagulation and the Rafaelo procedures are all thought to be less invasive and similar in efficacy to a THD/ HALO.
It’s important to speak with a colorectal specialist to determine which type of treatment would be best for you. It will largely depend upon the severity of the haemorrhoids and your preferences depending upon your symptoms and your individual circumstances.