Haemorrhoids - commonly known as piles - are swollen blood vessels (veins) which develop inside and/or outside the anus. If they become infected, they can cause pain and discomfort and may need treatment.

Haemorrhoids are a relatively common complaint - around half the UK’s population will develop haemorrhoids at some point during their life and most haemorrhoids can be easily treated. If you’re experiencing persistent or severe symptoms of haemorrhoids - particularly pain or bleeding - you should speak to your GP. Your doctor should be able to rule out more potentially serious causes.

The exact cause of haemorrhoids is not clear, but it is closely related to increased pressure in the blood vessels of your back passage. This can cause swelling and inflammation of these blood vessels.

Straining and constipation when opening your bowels may make symptoms worse. Haemorrhoids are also very common during pregnancy, due to increased pressure on the pelvic blood vessels. Chronic (long-term) diarrhoea can also make you more susceptible to haemorrhoids.

You may be more prone to developing haemorrhoids due to:

  • being overweight or obese
  • age
  • being pregnant
  • a family history of haemorrhoids
  • regularly lifting heavy objects
  • a persistent cough or repeated vomiting
  • sitting down for long periods of time

If you think you have haemorrhoids, the first step is to see your GP. It’s only natural that you might feel embarrassed, but don't let that stop you seeking help. It’s a common complaint that GPs are used to dealing with.

Your GP can usually diagnose haemorrhoids with a simple internal examination of your back passage, although they may need to refer you to a specialist for diagnosis and treatment.


Common symptoms of haemorrhoids include bleeding from your bottom after passing a stool, and itching and soreness around your anus.

Haemorrhoids are usually painless and often don’t cause any symptoms, so many people don't even realise they have them.

Symptoms include

  • bleeding (bright red blood) from the bottom after passing a stools
  • an itchy bottom
  • a red or sore anus
  • swelling around your anus
  • a lump hanging outside the anus after passing a stool
  • a mucus discharge from the anus after passing a stool

Haemorrhoids (piles) often clear up by themselves, without intervention, after a few days. Often simple dietary changes and self-care can help reduce the occurrence of haemorrhoids. For example, if constipation is thought to be the cause, then extra fibre in your diet will keep your stools soft and avoid the need for straining.

If you’re experiencing itching and discomfort there are many readily available, over-the-counter treatments that can reduce these symptoms.

If your symptoms are more severe, you may need further haemorrhoid treatment such as:

  • The Rafaelo Procedure (shrinking and eliminating haemorrhoids using radio frequency energy).
  • banding of haemorrhoids (removing them by restricting their blood flow)
  • haemorrhoidectomy (the surgical removal of haemorrhoids)

Your surgeon will recommend what’s most appropriate for you.

Rafaelo Procedure

The Rafaelo procedure is a minimally invasive procedure for internal haemorrhoids. It typically take around 20 minutes to perform. Patients are usually treated, using a local anaesthetic or mild sedative (although some patients choose to be treated under general anaesthetic). Most patients report minimal post-operative pain, meaning recovery time is short and they can quickly get back to their lives.

Banding of haemorrhoids

The banding (or ligation) of haemorrhoids is a non-surgical procedure where a tight rubber band is attached around the base of an internal haemorrhoid. The band constricts the blood supply to the haemorrhoid, causing it to fall off.

What next?

If you are suffering with a suspected condition, you should seek the advice of your doctor who will be able to refer you to Benenden Hospital for diagnosis and treatment.

There are four ways to access treatment at Benenden Hospital which include self-funding, using private medical insurance or your Benenden membership, or through the NHS e-Referral scheme.