Haemorrhoids - they’re uncomfortable, itchy, painful and not anything you really want to talk or even think about! But for many of us they’re something we have to deal with. Almost half of us will be affected by them before we’re fifty.

If you haven’t had haemorrhoids, then you might not even know what they are. Haemorrhoids are knobbly veins - a lot like varicose veins - in your rectal or anal area. They sometimes run in families and can be caused by a few things, constipation being the major culprit. For those of you who do have haemorrhoids, you’ll be pleased to know there are ways you can get some relief from their discomfort.

This brochure will tell you about some of the things you can do to help your haemorrhoids. It will also give you some practical advice on how to prevent new ones from forming.

How did these lumps get here?

There are a lot of blood vessels in our anus. But, unlike the blood vessels in other parts of our bodies, these ones don’t have any valves to control the pressure of our blood. So things that create too much pressure inside these vessels (like straining on the toilet when you’re constipated) can make the blood bulge or ‘pile’ through a weak spot in the vessel wall, causing a haemorrhoid. This is why haemorrhoids are sometimes called piles.

What causes them?

Have you ever heard the old wives’ tale about sitting on cold concrete giving you piles or haemorrhoids? This is definitely not true! But here are some things that do often contribute to haemorrhoids:

Constipation – This is by far the most common reason behind haemorrhoids. Straining when you go to the toilet puts extra pressure on your anal blood vessels. Constipation is usually caused by a low fibre diet or not getting enough exercise and fluid. It could  also have something to do with the medication you’re taking. For more information on constipation, see our brochure on Keeping Regular.

Pregnancy - A lot of things which happen during pregnancy can contribute to haemorrhoids. There’s constipation, hormonal changes that cause your haemorrhoidal vessels to enlarge, the pressure of the growing baby and the strain of pushing during labour. Anything that puts extra pressure on your anal vessels – Things like heavy lifting, a chronic cough, sneezing, vomiting or being overweight can all contribute to haemorrhoids.

Some illnesses - Severe conditions such as liver disease and cancers of the rectum or pelvic organs can also give you haemorrhoids.