Piles, also known as haemorrhoids, are a very common problem that many people will encounter at some stage in their life. Many people do not seek medical attention for them, so it is unknown exactly how common they are. They are enlarged blood vessels in and around the anus which look like small lumps that can be red or purplish. Symptoms of piles can include blood after you go for a poo, they can also cause pain or itching around the anus. The blood from piles will usually be bright red, and usually seen on wiping or on top of the stools. People can also have no symptoms at all.
Sometimes piles can become thrombosed, which means they have no blood flow due to the blood clotting in the vessel. These are very painful and tender to touch, sometimes described as looking like a painful purple grape. Piles are not contagious, and cannot be passed on.
It is a myth that sitting on cold floors can cause piles. What does increase the risk of getting piles is anything that increases pressure in your abdomen which in turn increases the pressure in the blood vessels in and around the anus. Constipation can increase the chance of haemorrhoids, as it causes straining when having a poo. Other causes include generally sitting and straining on the toilet for long periods of time, pregnancy, or if you are overweight.
Some common ways to help prevent piles are doing things that reduce down the possible causes. Exercise, staying hydrated, and eating vegetables or other fibrous food can help avoid constipation. This will lower your risk of piles but also help if you do already have piles. Reducing your weight will reduce the pressure on the blood vessels. If you are pregnant, sometimes piles just need to be managed until the birth.
You should see your doctor if you have any bleeding from the back passage, and not seen your doctor before. The first step is to confirm the diagnosis. If you have been diagnosed then you may opt to treat the piles with over the counter treatments. You should also see your doctor if you have any serious symptoms such as weight loss, night sweats or a change in your normal bowel habit.
You are fit for work if you have piles.
The doctor will ask about your medical history and your symptoms. They will need to examine the area around your anus and will tell you if you have haemorrhoids.
If your piles are causing very severe problems, the doctor may refer you for treatment at the hospital which is usually done as an outpatient by the process called banding. This is where a small elastic band is put onto the haemorrhoid stopping the blood from getting into it and it eventually just falls off - this process usually isn't painful. There are other options that the doctor will discuss with you if banding is not suitable.
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