How does constipation cause piles?
The proper name for piles is 'haemorrhoids'. Many people don’t realise that piles and constipation often go together. Find out more below.
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Symptoms of Constipation
- passing small hard pellet-like stool
- having to push really hard to pass stool
- infrequent opening of the bowels
- bloated abdomen
- abdominal pain
Symptoms of Piles
- pain on passing stool
- bleeding when wiping after passing stool
- blood in the toilet bowl
- painful or itchy lumps around the anus
What is constipation?
Different people open their bowels with differing frequency. For some people it works like clockwork! For others it can be much more variable. Passing stool is normally preceded by passing wind. This is a normal and natural part of the process, so if you don’t open your bowels very often, you may experience uncomfortable bloating of the abdomen. Your stool is also likely to be very large and very solid, so you may need to force the stool out with force and effort. This is constipation.
What are piles?
When you’re constipated and you’re straining to force out a hard stool, it causes blood to pool in the veins of the back passage - a bit like a varicose vein on your leg. These engorged veins are called piles, or haemorrhoids. The veins, along with the skin covering them, can be forced out of the anus with the stool and get trapped outside. They can bleed when you pass stool. If piles are not pushed back inside, the blood they contain can clot. This is called a thrombosed pile and can be extremely itchy and painful.
When should I call a doctor?
There are a few instances in which constipation can be a sign of something more worrying.
Blood on the toilet paper
Finding blood on the toilet paper can be alarming. If you’re a woman, try to be sure whether it is coming from the anus or from the vagina, as it can be hard to tell sometimes. If it hurt as the stool was passed, you may have piles or possibly an anal fissure (a tear or split in the lining of the anus). If blood is mixed in with the stool, however, it may be coming from higher up inside the back passage, and be due to a polyp or even bowel cancer. You must report this to your doctor.
As well as causing piles, longstanding constipation can cause diverticulitis. This is a condition where there are small outpouchings from the wall on the large gut. These pouches can become abscesses, which can cause severe pain and fever, and in extreme cases, a life-threatening infection called peritonitis.
Constipation with other long term conditions
Constipation can be a symptom of an underlying disease, like an underactive thyroid gland. Women may get piles during pregnancy due to constipation and due to the weight of the baby on the pelvic veins. Iron treatment for anaemia also causes constipation and piles. If you’re worried about the cause of your constipation, speak to one of our doctors now.
How to relieve constipation
Treating constipation depends on the cause, but there are some basic things you can do.
Eating foods full of fibre, like fruit, vegetables, grains and pulses, is important for good bowel health. Some foods, like prunes, are natural laxatives, so they can help you open your bowels if you are constipated. Make sure you drink a lot of water as well – you can imagine how dry stools would be harder and tougher to push out, so keeping hydrated is the most important way to treat and prevent constipation.
Exercise and Massage
Getting your stools to pass through your large bowel requires a bit of outside help sometimes. Exercising causes your abdominal muscles to contract, so will help to push stools along. Abdominal massages can also be very effective for this.
Have you just had surgery?
Having an operation puts you at risk of constipation in two ways: firstly, inactivity during your recovery period prevents the stool being pushed along your bowel. Secondly, strong painkillers like morphine and codeine often cause constipation as a side effect. If you find this is happening and your pain isn’t too bad, try to use paracetamol or ibuprofen instead.
If more help is needed, a stool softener and bowel stimulant (
How to get rid of piles
Piles can worry people because sometimes an injection with a sclerosant, banding, or surgery may be needed. But there is something you can try first: our
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