Hemorrhoids refer to a condition where the veins in the lower rectum and around the anus are swollen, dilated and inflamed (similar to varicose veins in legs). This can result in pain, itching, irritation, burning and sometimes bleeding – these symptoms indicate a flare-up. About 75% of all Americans will have hemorrhoids at some point in their lives.
There are two types of hemorrhoids: internal and external. Internal hemorrhoids occur in the lower rectum and external hemorrhoids develop under the skin around the anus.
Internal hemorrhoids are typically painless, even when they produce bleeding. Internal hemorrhoids can become painful when straining pushes them out through the anus (also called a “prolapsed hemorrhoid). When this happens, it may cause irritation and itching.
External hemorrhoids can lead to discomfort and itching because they make cleaning this area difficult. If a blood clot forms inside an external hemorrhoid, the pain can be sudden and severe.
* Harvard Health Publications. “Hemorrhoids and what to do about them.” Harvard Women’s Health Watch, 2004.