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Hemorrhoids – also known as piles – are enlarged and swollen blood vessels around the anus. They usually don’t cause pain, and if they’re internal, some people don’t realise they have them1. However, if they are external, prolapsed, or cause uncomfortable symptoms, it’s time to get treatment.

Hemorrhoidal discomfort happens when your hemorrhoids become swollen, dilated and inflamed. You may experience pain, itching, irritation, burning, and sometimes bleeding. If any of this sounds familiar, don’t worry, you’re not alone. About 80% of Canadians experience hemorrhoidal discomfort at some point in their lives. Piles are more common when you’re pregnant, as you get older, if you are overweight, and if your job involves a lot of heavy lifting or sitting down1.

Find out about different types of hemorrhoids and how to get relief from piles below.


Internal Hemorrhoids originate inside the rectum and are typically mild. You may not even know they're there unless the hemorrhoids start to bleed. Straining can push them out. This is called a prolapse and may cause irritation and itching.

External Hemorrhoids are often more of a problem. Usually, this condition presents itself as round, purple “soft swellings” that develop under the skin just outside the opening of the anus that are tender to the touch. Due to this location, it can be hard to keep the area clean which leads to itching. If a blood clot forms inside a hemorrhoid, the pain can be sudden and severe. They can be especially painful during a bowel movement.

Prolapsed Hemorrhoids are internal hemorrhoids that protrude or hang out of the anus. They can become very painful if blood clots form inside them2. It’s important to identify whether you have prolapsed hemorrhoids or a rectal prolapse, as the latter is more serious and can lead to fecal incontinence (when you cannot fully control your bowel movements)3. Be sure to get checked out by your doctor who can diagnose the issue and advise suitable treatments.

Thrombosed Hemorrhoids are piles that develop blood clots inside, cutting off blood flow to the hemorrhoid and causing pain and bleeding. They are not dangerous and most go away on their own within a few weeks4, but it’s a good idea to talk to a doctor if you experience any kind of unexpected rectal bleeding.


The good news is that hemorrhoids do go away. Hemorrhoidal discomfort is a common and manageable condition with many treatment options.

Most cases of piles get better of their own accord within a couple of weeks, even if you don’t treat them4. If yours last for longer than 7 days after you’ve treated them at home with topical products, like Preparation H suppositories or creams, make an appointment with your doctor as you may need clinical treatment5.


Treatment for hemorrhoids depends on their type and how severe they are. If your piles don’t get better on their own, there are a few lines of action that can be taken:5

  • Home treatment: over-the-counter products like Preparation H Cream or Suppositories may be advised to help reduce your piles at home.
  • Rubber band ligation: a band is tied around the piles to cut off their blood supply so that they die and fall off.
  • Sclerotherapy: hemorrhoids are injected with liquid to make them shrink.
  • Hemorrhoidectomy: the surgical removal of piles.
  • Stapled haemorrhoidopexy: hemorrhoids are surgically stapled back inside the anus.

Thankfully, surgery for piles is rare as they usually heal on their own. If you are suffering from piles, ask your pharmacist about home treatment or see your doctor for those that are more stubborn.


  1. NHS Inform. Haemorrhoids (piles). Accessed 30/11/2021.
  2. Bupa. Haemorrhoids (Piles). Accessed 30/11/2021.
  3. American Society of Colon & Rectal Surgeons. Rectal Prolapse. Accessed 30/11/2021.
  4. Osmosis. Thrombosed Hemorrhoid. Accessed 30/11/2021.
  5. NHS. Piles (haemorrhoids). Accessed 30/11/2021.