We tend to undermine how resilient the human body is. It is highly unlikely for hemorrhoids to kill a person - at least not on their own. The swelling of veins around the anal area and inflammation of tissue can be extremely painful - but it rarely proves to be fatal unless another condition flares up.
Let's go into more detail to answer the question, "can hemorrhoids really kill you?"
Hemorrhoids can be Painful and Cause Bleeding - But not Deadly
Some people describe the pain from hemorrhoids as the worst experience of their life. But despite the very intense pain and discomfort that hemorrhoids cause, the condition simply does not have what it takes to be deadly. That credit goes to more serious illnesses such as cancer or an infection.
Speaking of infections, hemorrhoids can become infected, especially if there is excessive bleeding and scarring of the tissue area. Bacteria and viruses can fester near the scarred tissue and cause necrosis of the area. This is an extremely rare condition - but it has been known to occur. Any infections related to hemorrhoids can be a death sentence - because it can lead to life-threatening complications such as peritonitis.
Peritonitis is an infection of the internal organs and abdominal wall. Infected hemorrhoids can provide a convenient pathway for viruses into the body to spread. This condition can become even more severe if the patient is experiencing a fever and a low white blood cell count (WBC).
The Case of Rectal Prolapse
Prolapse occurs when the veins in your lower rectum swell up, forcing the hemorrhoid to bulge outside the anus. This condition is known as prolapsed hemorrhoid and can be extremely painful and cause severe bleeding. Again, prolapsed hemorrhoids are not life-threatening and they usually subside on their own, but things can become complicated if the condition takes too long to heal.
The hemorrhoids may prolapse extensively outside the anal region and are easily visible to the eye in rare cases. This case will require medical intervention to rectify the excessive opening before it leads to rectal prolapse.
On the other hand, a rectal prolapse is a very different story. It's when the lower section of the large intestine (the rectum) loses its attachment and slips outside the anus (the end of the digestive tract).
The longer you live with rectal prolapse, the worse the condition can get - outside of significantly eroding the patient's quality of life. A rectal prolapse could lead to excessive bleeding (especially during bowel movements) and ulceration if left untreated. In worse cases, the rectum's blood supply may be cut off entirely, causing strangulation of the lower intestine.
This is followed by gangrene, resulting in the death of the tissue and further infection.
It is worth pointing out that hemorrhoids don't directly cause rectal prolapse. But they will increase a person's chances of a rectal prolapse if they were already predisposed to the condition.
External hemorrhoids can become more dangerous if it leads to thrombosis. It's when a blood clot forms and gets stuck inside the inflamed and swollen veins in the anal area. This condition can cut off the blood supply of the external hemorrhoids and can be extremely painful. It is worth mentioning that the blood clot will get reabsorbed by the body and the symptoms should abate on their own in a few weeks.
Thrombosed hemorrhoids are known to be more painful than regular hemorrhoids and often require medical treatment. The doctor will ensure that the clot inside the thrombosed hemorrhoid is taken care of before it can travel to a more vulnerable area of the body through the bloodstream.
Bleeding That Does not Stop
It is common for hemorrhoids to bleed. But it is not normal for the bleeding to never stop.
You should speak to your doctor right away because this symptom is not a result of hemorrhoids. Many people confuse life-threatening infections and illnesses with hemorrhoids, often preferring to wait for the condition to subside on its own. This can prove to be a fatal mistake - especially if the bleeding never stops.
Further testing is required to determine the true cause of bleeding in the stool accurately.
The bleeding in hemorrhoids can stop relatively quickly. It is common for a person to bleed profusely if their thrombosed hemorrhoids rupture, but the bleeding should stop after some time. However, if the rectal bleeding continues to persist, this may be a symptom of something more serious, such as an anal fissure, colon cancer, diverticulosis, or rectal ulcer syndrome.
This is why you should never self-diagnose your condition if you notice blood in your stool. If you notice bright red blood in your stool, it is time to visit a doctor.
When is Treatment Necessary?
Hemorrhoids should go away on their own in a few days - two or three weeks at most. But rare, more severe cases of hemorrhoids can result in a more serious condition, especially in the case of thrombosis.
Thrombosed and prolapsed hemorrhoids can erode the quality of your life and make regular activities more difficult. They may require more extensive and invasive surgical treatment, especially if the hemorrhoids become excessively painful or large.
A range of surgical treatments is available. These include hemorrhoidectomy, rubber band ligation, and sclerotherapy. Discuss with your doctor to identify the most appropriate surgery for your particular case of hemorrhoids. All three surgery options can completely remove the hemorrhoids and restore your quality of life.
Most cases of hemorrhoids can be painful, irritating, and discomforting. But they are not life-threatening on their own.
You should closely monitor your symptoms of hemorrhoids to see if it's time to visit a doctor. Hemorrhoids can become particularly alarming if the anal area swells too much and leads to excessive bleeding. However, hemorrhoids are unlikely to be fatal - unless there is something else going on.
Always talk to your doctor if you notice that the symptoms persist, even after you've tried home remedies. Finally, hemorrhoids are not deadly, but they can be confused with other life-threatening conditions that share several overlapping symptoms (such as bleeding and intense pain).