Overview of Hemorrhoids

Hemorrhoids, also called piles, are swollen masses of tissue that occur on the anus (opening through which fecal matter is expelled from the body) and within the lower rectum (lower portion of the colon or large bowel). Hemorrhoids contain blood vessels and can cause pain, bleeding, and/or itching.

Hemorrhoids often result from pressure on the rectal area caused by constipation or straining during bowel movements. They are more common in people between the ages of 45 and 65, and in women who are pregnant or who have recently given birth.

External hemorrhoids occur on the anus and internal hemorrhoids occur within the rectum. Internal hemorrhoids, which can protrude through the anus in some cases, are characterized by stage or degree (i.e., stage I to stage IV), depending on the severity of the condition. Internal hemorrhoids that protrude through the anal opening are called prolapsed hemorrhoids.

Incidence and Prevalence of Hemorrhoids

Hemorrhoids are very common in both men and women. According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), they affect about 75 percent of all people at some point in their lives. It's difficult to estimate the exact prevalence of hemorrhoids because many people use over-the-counter treatments and do not seek medical attention for the condition.

Publication Review By: the Editorial Staff at Healthcommunities.com

Published: 26 Dec 2008

Last Modified: 21 Feb 2013