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Haemorrhoid inflammation 

Haemorrhoids, also referred to as piles, are a common health condition in which the veins in your anus and rectum become swollen and enlarged.

This normally happens as a result of increased pressure in the body. In the majority of cases, piles clear up within a few days with the help of home remedies and over-the-counter medications. 

However, it’s possible for complications such as an infected haemorrhoid, strangulated haemorrhoid, or thrombosed haemorrhoid to occur that take longer to heal.

This page will look at some of the reasons why you might suffer haemorrhoid inflammation or infected piles, as well as the ways that they can be treated and prevented.

Causes of an infected haemorrhoid

Although it’s rare, there are several reasons why you might develop an infected haemorrhoid. Firstly, certain types of piles are more likely to become infected than others.

For example, internal haemorrhoids that don’t prolapse (pop out of the anus) rarely become infected. Conversely, external piles and internal ones that do prolapse have a higher possibility of developing an infection.

One important factor is healthy blood flow. You have a greater chance of suffering from infected piles if blood flow to the affected area is restricted.

This is because white blood cells are an important part of the immune system and key to fighting infection. When blood flow to a haemorrhoid is cut off, it becomes strangulated and is at higher risk of becoming infected.

Other factors that might reduce blood flow to the rectal area include:

  • Obesity
  • Diabetes
  • Crohn’s disease (a form of inflammatory bowel disease)
  • Blood clots
  • Atherosclerosis (narrowing of the arteries)

Any existing health conditions you have that lower your immune system also make it more likely you’ll suffer from an infected haemorrhoid.

Infected piles from medical treatment

Another possible reason you might develop an infected haemorrhoid is as a result of certain medical treatments that are done to get rid of piles.

For instance, there is a risk of infection following a rubber band ligation, where a band is placed around the piles to cut the blood supply so they fall off, and a haemorrhoidectomy in which piles are cut out.

Other reasons for haemorrhoid inflammation

Infection is not the only reason that haemorrhoids can become inflamed. As an example, if the affected area is frequently irritated, then it might swell more than usual.

This could occur if you wear tight clothing over the area, wipe too vigorously after using the toilet, or use rough, dry toilet paper. 

Another cause of inflammation can be if a haemorrhoid becomes thrombosed. This is slightly different from infected piles and happens when a blood clot forms inside the haemorrhoid.

As a result, it can become dark blue and swollen with blood. Sometimes it will burst, resulting in pain and bleeding. 

The bleeding might last just a few seconds or continue for several minutes, but generally is not a serious complication. If it lasts longer than 10 minutes, seek medical assistance.

General causes of piles

There is a broad range of factors that can contribute to the development of piles. These include:

  • Constipation
  • Chronic diarrhoea
  • Straining during bowel movements
  • Spending too long on the toilet
  • Heavy lifting 
  • Being obese
  • Dehydration
  • Eating a diet low in fibre
  • Spending prolonged periods of time sitting down
  • Pregnancy
  • Childbirth

Symptoms of an infected haemorrhoid

Haemorrhoids can present with many different symptoms depending on the type, location, and severity. Some of the most common include:

  • Bleeding during bowel movements
  • Pain in the affected area
  • An itchy anus
  • Lumps in and/or around the anus 
  • Slimy mucus on the toilet paper after defecating
  • Swelling around the anus
  • A feeling like you still need to defecate after going to the toilet

Symptoms infected haemorrhoid

In addition to the above, if you have infected piles, you are likely to experience some or all of the following additional symptoms:

  • Fever
  • Pain that continues to get worse (even after trying home remedies and other treatments)
  • Redness around the infected area

If you have any reason to think you might have an infected haemorrhoid, you should book an appointment with your GP straight away.

Don’t rely on self-diagnosis because inflamed haemorrhoids can look very similar to normal ones. The main visual difference is redness around the haemorrhoid.

Your doctor will be able to give you an accurate diagnosis and assess your options for treatment promptly. 

Diagnosing an infected haemorrhoid

In order to diagnose whether you have infected piles or another condition such as an anal abscess, your doctor will first talk to you about your symptoms, medical history, and other relevant topics. 

Then they will likely want to do a visual examination of the area. 

This can be done by gently parting the buttocks and checking for signs of infection such as redness. Depending on what they find, the GP may also want to conduct a physical examination of the anus.

Treatment for an infected haemorrhoid

Having established that you are definitely suffering from infected piles, your doctor will advise you on the best course of action regarding treatment. A combination of medical intervention and home remedies generally yields the best results. 

Medical treatment

There are two main options when it comes to medical treatment for an infected haemorrhoid: antibiotics and surgery. 

Antibiotics are the most common method for clearing up infected piles. The specific medication you’re prescribed will depend on a number of factors.

These include your age, medical history, allergies, and the severity of the infection. Whichever drug is recommended, be sure to take it exactly as prescribed and finish the full course of medication.

In more severe cases of infected haemorrhoids, surgery might be recommended to remove the infected tissue. This will probably involve general anaesthetic, and staying in the hospital for a few days.

Home remedies

Regardless of whether your infected haemorrhoid is treated with medicine or surgery, there are plenty of remedies you can use to ease your symptoms at home. Some of the most effective include:

  • Soaking your anal region in a warm bath
  • Applying a cold compress or similar to the affected area
  • Taking painkillers (check with your doctor first to see if you can take them alongside your antibiotics) 
  • After going to the toilet, use wet wipes rather than dry toilet paper to wipe your bottom
  • Wipe your bottom with a patting motion rather than rubbing it to avoid irritating the area
  • Ease the pressure on the veins in your anus by not straining when defecating or spending too long on the toilet
  • Avoid using products that are scented or perfumed, as these may irritate the skin

Preventing infected piles

The best way to avoid getting an infected haemorrhoid is to try not to develop piles at all. Implementing the following recommended diet and lifestyle changes can be a big help in piles prevention:

  • Drink six to eight glasses of water every day to stay hydrated, and avoid having too many caffeinated or alcoholic drinks that dehydrate you.
  • Eat a balanced diet with plenty of high-fibre foods such as fruit and vegetables, nuts, brown rice, wholewheat pasta, and wholemeal bread for good digestive health.
  • Cut down on foods like white bread, meat, dairy products, fast food, and processed foods.
  • Avoid sitting down for long periods of time without moving, as this puts pressure on the veins in your anus. If you have a job that requires you to be at a desk all day, see if you can make a habit of getting up and walking around for a few minutes every hour or so.
  • Take regular exercise. This helps to keep your digestive system moving and also avoid obesity.
  • If you need to lift heavy objects or enjoy doing weights in the gym, be sure to use good technique and breathe steadily throughout.
  • Keep your anal region clean and dry.
  • Don’t ignore the urge to defecate when you feel it. Delaying bowel movements can result in stools that are harder to pass and more likely to damage the anal canal.
  • Don’t spend too long on the toilet, and don’t strain too hard during bowel movements.

Infected haemorrhoids FAQs

How long does it take an infected haemorrhoid to heal?

There’s no simple answer to this question because it depends on a number of factors, such as the severity of the infection and how you treat it. A normal case of piles can clear up in just a few days, but an infected haemorrhoid will normally take at least a week to heal. The sooner you get infected piles diagnosed, the better, as this will make them easier to treat.

When should I go to the doctor for haemorrhoid inflammation?

If you are suffering from inflamed haemorrhoids, you should book an appointment with the doctor straight away. This will allow a quick diagnosis to determine whether it’s an infected haemorrhoid or something else, such as an anal abscess or anal fistula. An early diagnosis means you can receive prompt and effective treatment. 

It’s particularly important to see your doctor if you’re in severe pain, bleeding heavily or constantly, suffering a fever, or feeling hot and shivery.

Can you get sepsis from haemorrhoids? 

Yes. Although rare, if left untreated, there can be serious complications to infected piles, such as sepsis.

What do inflamed haemorrhoids look like?

Haemorrhoids are not always visible (for example, if they’re internal); however, sometimes they appear as a lump around your anus.

They usually look similar to your skin tone, although thrombosed haemorrhoids (those with a blood clot inside) may have more of a bluish hue. Inflamed haemorrhoids may be easier to spot because they are more swollen. If you have an infected haemorrhoid, the area around the anus will normally look red.

How do I know if I have an anal abscess not an infected haemorrhoid?

Haemorrhoids present with similar symptoms to a number of other conditions. One condition that is often confused with an infected haemorrhoid is an anal abscess. This is when a pus-filled cavity forms in the anal canal. The most common symptoms are:

  • Fever
  • Fatigue
  • Bleeding from the rectum
  • Constipation
  • Pain
  • Swelling and/or redness around the anus
  • Discharge of pus

It’s best to go to the doctor rather than attempt a self-diagnosis, to ensure you get the correct treatment and avoid complications such as an anal fistula.

How do you treat an infected haemorrhoid?

The best way to treat an infected haemorrhoid will depend on the specifics of your condition but generally involves taking antibiotics or having surgery. In addition, you can soothe your symptoms by taking warm baths, using cold compresses, and practising good toilet habits.

These include not straining too hard or staying on the toilet too long. To speed up your recovery, try eating a high-fibre diet, staying hydrated, being active, treating the affected area gently, and keeping your anal region clean and dry.

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