Although very common, some people never get hemorrhoids in their entire lives. Maybe you are experiencing pain and discomfort in your rectal region, and the thought of having hemorrhoids is scaring you. Finding yourself asking, “what do hemorrhoids look like?”
Let’s learn about the different types of hemorrhoids and their symptoms so that you can figure out if hemorrhoids are the reason behind the rectal pain you are experiencing.
What are Hemorrhoids?
Hemorrhoids are clusters of connective tissue, smooth muscles, and hemorrhoidal veins present inside the walls of the anus. This normal tissue functions to provide cushioning to the anus. When the walls of the anus stretch too much, the veins of the hemorrhoids get irritated and bulge. Piles, or hemorrhoidal disease, are caused when these inflamed veins cause hemorrhoids to swell.
Depending on their location, there are three types of hemorrhoids. They are described as follows:
I. Internal Hemorrhoids
These hemorrhoids are located inside the rectum. The affected individual is unaware of their presence unless symptoms occur. Internal hemorrhoids tend to resolve independently and do not cause much pain. They can also be treated with topical ointments, painkillers, and various other non-invasive ways. Internal hemorrhoids are divided into grade I, II, III, and IV hemorrhoids, depending on the severity of symptoms.
II. External Hemorrhoids
External hemorrhoids are located outside the anus. They are very painful due to the presence of numerous pain receptors underneath the skin outside the anus. Although external hemorrhoids sometimes resolve on their own, they can also lead to complications. Medical attention is advised if complications occur and the pain becomes unmanageable.
III. Thrombosed Hemorrhoids
Blood clots can form inside hemorrhoidal veins and cause thrombosed hemorrhoids. Although thrombosed hemorrhoids are generally external in nature, they can be internal as well. They cause severe pain and discomfort. Topical ointments are usually ineffective since the pain is internal. Thrombosed hemorrhoids can also rupture when the pressure inside the veins exceeds tolerable levels.
Doctors typically advise medical treatment for dealing with thrombosed hemorrhoids. Complications like fistulas, skin tags, and perianal abscesses can also develop because of them. Doctors can remove the hemorrhoids through surgical means if the symptoms worsen. This mitigates the risk of recurrence since the whole hemorrhoidal structure, including the veins and connective tissue, is removed.
Causes of Hemorrhoids
Hemorrhoids are caused when pressure is exerted on the lower walls of the rectum. In fact, it is a combination of increased abdominal stress, trauma to the rectum, and the gradual weakening of the muscle and connective tissue of the rectum walls that causes hemorrhoids.
These factors combine to irritate the hemorrhoidal structures, causing the veins inside the anus to dilate and swell. Common causes that contribute to trauma or increased pressure inside the rectum include the following:
- Prolonged sitting on the toilet
- Forced or strained bowel movements
- Chronic constipation or diarrhea
- Physical strain and heavyweight lifting
- Anal intercourse, pregnancy, and childbirth
- Obesity and a low-fiber diet
- Liver cirrhosis
The aforementioned causes increase the risk of developing hemorrhoidal disease and might cause flareups in previously affected individuals. It is essential to identify and learn about these causes so one can become more aware of their habits. Now let's discuss the symptoms and what different types of hemorrhoids look like.
So, What Do Hemorrhoids Look Like?
First, let's look at some of the most common symptoms of hemorrhoids. Itching and irritation are two symptoms that develop in all three types of hemorrhoids. Although rare in the case of internal hemorrhoids, pain is also recurrent in hemorrhoid types.
Rectal bleeding is one of the first indicators of hemorrhoidal disease. Hemorrhoids also make it difficult to pass stool by obstructing the anus.
They look like swollen rubber-like lumps, which can be pink or colorless. The size and look of the bumps vary depending on the type of hemorrhoids. Let's get into specifics.
You will never be able to actually see internal hemorrhoids unless they prolapse. They look like rubbery bumps or swollen lumps. In their prolapsed state, they will appear as moist bumps that are pinkier than the surrounding flesh. The hemorrhoidal structure will also be painful to touch.
These can always be observed since they are under the skin around the anus. Other than the rubbery bumps described above, symptomatic external hemorrhoids often present themselves as bluish-colored painful lumps right outside the anus.
They cause severe pain when touched. Skin tags are also present in some cases, so it’s easy to identify external hemorrhoids. The skin tag looks like a lump of stretched skin around your anus or in the surrounding area. In people with a history of hemorrhoidal disease, the hemorrhoids will also have a scarred appearance.
When present outside the anus, they also appear as one or more bumps on the skin. Thrombosed hemorrhoids have a characteristic purple or red color because of the underlying blood clot. The swollen bumps are often warm to the touch. Recurring thrombosed hemorrhoids can be accompanied by scarred and stretched skin, cracks, tears, and pockets of pus. These structural features make it easier to spot thrombosed hemorrhoids.
To sum it all up, all hemorrhoids look like rubbery swollen lumps and can be painful to touch. They can be blue, red, or colorless. Moist bumps protruding from the anus are internal hemorrhoids, while those present on the skin outside can be external or thrombosed hemorrhoids.
Internal hemorrhoids are difficult to spot, while thrombosed external hemorrhoids are the easiest. We hope this article helped you understand what hemorrhoids look like. Consult your local doctor for information on the best treatment plan!