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Haemorrhoids, also known as 'piles', are a very common condition, with about half of adults having experienced them by the age of 507. In fact, over 300,000 cases of haemorrhoids are treated each year around Australia2.

Haemorrhoids are swollen and inflamed veins in the anus and lower rectum, which can be internal or external.5 Internal haemorrhoids occur within the rectum whereas external haemorrhoids develop under the skin around the anus and can feel like hard lumps. Many problems such as anal fissures, fistula, abscesses and anal tears are incorrectly referred to as haemorrhoids as they have similar symptoms such as bleeding and anal pain.5


Symptoms of haemorrhoids can vary from one person to the next, particularly depending on the duration and severity. Some examples include:

  • Anal pain
  • Rectal pain
  • Anal itch
  • Bleeding during bowel movements
  • Swelling around the anus
  • Rectal burning

Symptoms usually depend on the location. Internal haemorrhoids often don’t cause discomfort or pain but straining during bowel movements can damage the surface and cause them to bleed. You may notice small amounts of blood on your toilet paper or in the toilet bowl. External haemorrhoids commonly itch and bleed and can cause considerable pain and discomfort.1


Haemorroids are caused by the supportive tissue inside the anus becoming weak. This usually happens when there is extra pressure placed on the blood vessels in the anus for some reason, causing swelling of the veins. Factors that commonly place extra pressure on the blood vessels in the anus include:

  • Long term constipation or diarrhoea
  • Being overweight
  • Spending long periods of time on the toilet
  • Straining during bowel movements
  • Regularly lifting heavy objects
  • Pregnancy
  • Ageing3
  • Low fibre diet1

Haemorrhoids are more likely as you age because the tissues that support the veins in the rectum and anus can weaken and stretch with age.1 Constipation is a common factor in the development of haemorrhoids because it causes straining during bowel movements. During pregnancy, haemorrhoids are particularly common due to the extra pressure placed on the abdomen by the growing baby. Haemorrhoids are also more common in some families, suggesting a genetic link.3


External haemorrhoids may be easy to diagnose, simply by looking. Your doctor may diagnose internal haemorrhoids by examination of the anal canal and rectum. A digital rectal exam involves your doctor inserting a gloved and lubricated finger into your rectum and feeling for any unusual growths. It is likely to be uncomfortable but not painful. These are very common procedures for your doctor and there is no need for embarrassment.3


Resolving constipation is an important component of most treatments to relieve haemorrhoids as it helps to reduce straining during bowel movements. Eating more fibre, exercising and drinking plenty of water may help resolve constipation.3 Sometimes a mild laxative to soften bowel movements may be called for - Please ask your pharmacist for advice.

Other home treatments of haemorrhoids include the use of over-the-counter creams or suppositories3 such as Proctosedyl Ointment or Suppositories, containing the active ingredients hydrocortisone, a steroid, and cinchocaine hydrochloride, a local anaesthetic. This soothing treatment provides relief by reducing inflammation and swelling, relieving anal itch, and providing long acting6 relief from anal pain and rectal pain. Proctosedyl can be used for up to seven days to relieve both internal and external haemorrhoids.

Always read the label and follow the directions for use.

Other simple steps that can be taken at home include soaking regularly in a warm bath, keeping the anal area clean, soft toilet paper, and using cold compresses on the anus to relieve haemorrhoid swelling.7

If the discomfort is severe or if symptoms persist or worsen, please talk to your health professional.

Common Myths

Myth: Only old people get haemorrhoids

Truth: Chances of having haemorrhoids increases with age due to the weakening of supportive tissue -but you can get them at any stage of your life.

Myth: Healthy people don’t get haemorrhoids

Truth: Being overweight increases the chance of haemorrhoids due to the extra pressure excess weight puts on the abdomen, but the pressure can also be the result of pregnancy, birth or straining during bowel movements. Although these things increase your risk, healthy people do still get haemorrhoids.

Myth: Haemorrhoids are not very common

Truth: About 50% of all people experience haemorrhoids by the age of 507.

Myth: Spicy foods cause haemorrhoids

Truth: Spicy foods may trigger upset stomachs but there is no evidence linking spices to haemorrhoids. However, the stomach upset some people may experience may result in stools becoming harder to eliminate, causing straining during bowel movements, a major factor in the cause of haemorrhoids.

Myth: Sitting on cold concrete causes haemorrhoids

Truth: Many people believe sitting on cold concrete causes haemorrhoids. This is not the case. However, prolonged sitting can be a factor in the development of haemorrhoids, due to the extra strain and pressure placed on the rectum. On the other hand, ice packs are recommended to relieve haemorrhoid pain and swelling.

Myth: Weight lifting is a cause of haemorrhoids

Truth: Lifting weights is not a direct cause of haemorrhoids. However, if the weight lifter incorrectly puts pressure on the pelvic area, straining may occur which is a major cause of haemorrhoids.

Myth: Haemorrhoids cannot be cured and are permanent

Truth: Haemorrhoids are not permanent. Treatment of haemorrhoids can often be achieved at home but always check with your health professional. For example, resolving constipation as well as using creams or suppositories such as Proctosedyl. This provides relief by reducing inflammation and swelling and relieving anal pain and anal itch.

Always read the label and follow the directions for use.


  1. Mayo Clinic accessed 2 March 2022
  2. Sydney Gut Clinic, accessed 2 March 2022.
  3. Health Direct, accessed 2 March 2022.
  4. Better Health Channel, accessed 2 March 2022.
  5. Centre for Digestive Diseases, accessed 2 March 2022.
  6. Proctosedyl Product Information, December 2021
  7. Johns Hopkins Medicine, access 2 March 2022.