Symptoms and causes

Symptoms

Signs and symptoms of hemorrhoids may include:

  • Painless bleeding during bowel movements — you might notice small amounts of bright red blood on your toilet tissue or in the toilet
  • Itching or irritation in your anal region
  • Pain or discomfort
  • Swelling around your anus
  • A lump near your anus, which may be sensitive or painful (may be a thrombosed hemorrhoid)

Hemorrhoid symptoms usually depend on the location.

Internal hemorrhoids. These lie inside the rectum. You usually can't see or feel these hemorrhoids, and they rarely cause discomfort. But straining or irritation when passing stool can damage a hemorrhoid's surface and cause it to bleed.

Occasionally, straining can push an internal hemorrhoid through the anal opening. This is known as a protruding or prolapsed hemorrhoid and can cause pain and irritation.

External hemorrhoids. These are under the skin around your anus. When irritated, external hemorrhoids can itch or bleed.

Thrombosed hemorrhoids. Sometimes blood may pool in an external hemorrhoid and form a clot (thrombus) that can result in severe pain, swelling, inflammation and a hard lump near your anus.

When to see a doctor

Bleeding during bowel movements is the most common sign of hemorrhoids. Your doctor can do a physical examination and perform other tests to confirm hemorrhoids and rule out more-serious conditions or diseases.

Also talk to your doctor if you know you have hemorrhoids and they cause pain, bleed frequently or excessively, or don't improve with home remedies.

Don't assume rectal bleeding is due to hemorrhoids, especially if you are over 40 years old. Rectal bleeding can occur with other diseases, including colorectal cancer and anal cancer. If you have bleeding along with a marked change in bowel habits or if your stools change in color or consistency, consult your doctor. These types of stools can signal more extensive bleeding elsewhere in your digestive tract.

Seek emergency care if you experience large amounts of rectal bleeding, lightheadedness, dizziness or faintness.

Causes

The veins around your anus tend to stretch under pressure and may bulge or swell. Swollen veins (hemorrhoids) can develop from increased pressure in the lower rectum due to:

  • Straining during bowel movements
  • Sitting for long periods of time on the toilet
  • Chronic diarrhea or constipation
  • Obesity
  • Pregnancy
  • Anal intercourse
  • Low-fiber diet

Hemorrhoids are more likely with aging because the tissues that support the veins in your rectum and anus can weaken and stretch.

Complications

Complications of hemorrhoids are very rare but include:

  • Anemia. Rarely, chronic blood loss from hemorrhoids may cause anemia, in which you don't have enough healthy red blood cells to carry oxygen to your cells.
  • Strangulated hemorrhoid. If the blood supply to an internal hemorrhoid is cut off, the hemorrhoid may be "strangulated," another cause of extreme pain.