What are piles and who gets them?
A guide to piles symptoms
If you think you might have piles, you’re not alone. More than 8 million people in Britain are estimated to suffer from discomfort and other symptoms caused by piles. It’s very common, but how can you tell if you have them? Find out more about piles in this easy to read guide.
What are piles?
You hear people talk about them, but you don’t know what they are or if you have them. So what are hemorrhoids? Hemorrhoids (also known as piles) are swollen blood vessels in the area just inside your bottom. They can cause symptoms ranging from itchiness to pain or even bleeding – in fact bleeding is the most common way people find out they have piles. If piles stick out from your bottom, you will be more likely to notice them and have symptoms which bother you.
Another common question is, what are piles like? We have covered that they may protrude from the bottom and that they manifest many irritating symptoms – but which is the most problematic? Bleeding can be a real problem. Fresh blood at the end of a bowel movement is likely to be associated with hemorrhoids, but can also be a symptom of a bowel cancer. Our eXroid consultants will be able to help.
What causes piles and who gets them?
A key question people usually ask is: what causes hemorrhoids? There are many theories but little is known about what causes them. However certain situations do increase the pressure in the hemorrhoidal veins in the anus and increase the chance of piles developing. These factors may lead to hemorrhoids appearing:
- straining on the toilet
- pregnancy and labour
- being overweight
- genetic factors
The best evidence to tell us who actually gets piles was a recent study in Austria when 976 adults were examined by experts during a bowel cancer screening programme to find out how common it was to have piles. The study found that 39% had piles, and almost half of those (17% overall) had symptoms from them. In other words, almost 1 in 5 adults have symptoms from piles. That means there are probably 8 million of us in the UK alone!
We know that as you get older, the risk of piles increases. Interestingly, the only other association with piles proven in this study was being overweight – so the heavier you are for your height, the more likely you are to have piles. For the more scientifically minded amongst you, this relationship was highly significant (p=0.028).
Do I have piles?
So how do you know if you actually have piles? The most common way to find you have piles is finding fresh blood on the toilet paper, but piles can also cause pain, itchiness or a lump that you can feel sticking out from your bottom. If you have ever asked yourself, “Why am I bleeding from my bottom?” – then you might have piles. However, it’s impossible to confidently diagnose piles yourself. In fact many doctors find it difficult too. In one study in 2010, 198 doctors were asked to diagnose piles and the non-specialist doctors got the diagnosis wrong in more than half the cases they were asked to examine!
That’s why eXroid recommends that you should see a doctor with expertise in the condition if you suspect you may have piles, especially if you have noticed any bleeding. A proper examination is important to rule out anything sinister like bowel cancer. To organise an appointment with an eXroid consultant, please contact us.
What causes piles to bleed and flare up?
In simple terms, due to the nature and construction (biologically speaking) of a hemorrhoid, minor scratches and nicks – or splitting of hemorrhoid’s surface – is likely to result in bleeding. Most often, the damage occurs as a result of the itchiness that is symptomatic of haemorrhoids.
If you don’t want your hemorrhoids to bleed or flare up, the simplest thing you can do is to eat a high fibre diet and to avoid spicy foods. Constipation and diarrhoea can also cause your piles to flare up. Be kind to your behind!
Are men more likely to get piles?
Some studies suggest that piles are more common in men, but there is no conclusive analysis – so medically speaking, this view is still treated as a somewhat arbitrary assertion.
Data from NHS England for 2016-17 shows that 53% of piles treatments were given to men and 47% to women.
What causes external hemorrhoids?
In basic terms, the same things that cause an internal hemorrhoid could (in theory) create an external hemorrhoid. The more aggressively that the bowels are strained, the higher the likelihood of developing a hemorrhoid of any kind. It is possible that more aggressive straining is also more likely to result in an external hemorrhoid, but there a few studies on this specific subject matter and nothing has been proven.
Grading of piles
Hemorrhoids are graded from stages 1 to 4 based upon these criteria:
- The hemorrhoid does not prolapse (stick out of your bottom) at any time
- The hemorrhoid prolapses during bowel movements but goes back inside your bottom at the end of a bowel movement
- The hemorrhoid prolapses during bowel movements and goes back inside your bottom only if you push it back in
- The hemorrhoid is prolapsed at all times