What are haemorrhoids?


Alternative name: Piles

Haemorrhoids develop when veins in the anal canal and lower rectum become abnormally swollen – a result of increased pressure in the area.

Haemorrhoids can develop inside the lower rectum (internal) or near the opening of the anus (external), under the skin.

Blood can pool under the skin and a painful lump can develop. This is called a clotted or thrombosed haemorrhoid.

For treatment purposes, internal haemorrhoids are graded according to their size:

  • Grade I: The vein bulges and may bleed during bowel movements.
  • Grade II: The vein comes out of the anus during bowel movements, but goes back by itself.
  • Grade III: The vein comes out during bowel movements, but doesn't go back by itself. It has to be replaced by hand.
  • Grade IV: The vein protrudes from the anus at all times and can’t be replaced.

It’s possible for a person to have both internal and external haemorrhoids at the same time.

Reviewed by Dr Britta Dedekind, General Surgeon at Christiaan Barnard Memorial Hospital. MBChB, FCS (SA), MMED (UCT). April 2018.

Read more:

- Causes of haemorrhoids

- Treating haemorrhoids

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