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It's embarrassing to admit that you've got a problem with haemorrhoids or piles. It's not a condition most people want to talk about, no matter how many suffer from it. Indeed, the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) reports (2007) that up to a quarter of the UK population suffers from haemorrhoids.
Piles are caused by a swelling of small veins in the anus and lower rectum. This swelling can cause inflammation in the surrounding tissues, which then form into haemorrhoids (also known as piles).
Doctors are still unclear about the exact causes of piles, though they appear to be linked to pressure on the area in and around the anus. They are common amongst women during pregnancy, and can also come about as a result of constipation and the strains that causes.1
There are many symptoms of piles, and not everyone will suffer from all of them. Symptoms include: itching and soreness around the anus; pain and discomfort on the toilet; bursts of sharp pain in the rectum; feeling full or 'lumpy' in your rectum, or feeling like something is dragging in there; blood on the toilet paper after you've been to the toilet; or finding hard lumps outside and around your anus.
If it's the first time you've encountered these symptoms, you should consult your GP for a proper diagnosis and advice. Some of these symptoms can indicate conditions other than piles, and your GP will be able to investigate your symptoms and make sure there are no serious problems. They'll also be able to recommend you a course of treatment for piles.
There are several treatments available, such as piles cream to help against haemorrhoids. There is no simple cure available for piles, and creams, medicines and other treatments can only help to relieve the symptoms rather than remove any underlying cause. Treatments can give great relief for troublesome cases of piles, making them much more bearable. In some cases, surgery may be recommended by your GP to deal with troublesome cases2
There's no guaranteed way to prevent piles, but you can reduce the likelihood of developing them by eating healthier - include lots of fibre in your diet and drink plenty of fluids to keep yourself regular. Also, try not to spend too much time sitting on the toilet - don't take the newspaper in there with you to read! - as the pressure of sitting there can help to cause piles to develop.
Piles may be embarrassing, but it's easy to take a few steps and find yourself some relief from the problems they're causing you and millions of others.
2(NHS Clinical Knowledge Summaries, 2012).