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What is an Internal Hemorrhoid?

By D. Jeffress
Updated May 17, 2024
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An internal hemorrhoid is a mass of swollen, inflamed veins inside the anus. People who suffer from hemorrhoids often experience constant itching, irritation, and discomfort. An internal hemorrhoid is usually the result of excessive strain placed on the rectal muscles, which can occur during a difficult bowel movement, anal intercourse, or pregnancy. Most hemorrhoids go away on their own within about a week, though people can ease their symptoms and shorten recovery time by using topical ointments or suppositories.

Hemorrhoids usually occur externally, protruding from the rim of the anus. An internal hemorrhoid results when the irritated vein stays inside of the anal cavity. Internal hemorrhoids typically cause less discomfort than external ones, since sitting and walking do not cause excessive rubbing on the veins. An internal hemorrhoid can still be quite painful, however, and lead to itching and irritation. Some people have difficulty passing stools, and bowel movements might appear bloody.

Doctors have identified several potential risk factors for getting internal or external hemorrhoids. Sitting on the toilet for a long time or straining during a bowel movement can irritate veins in the anus. Anal sexual intercourse can also put excessive pressure on the veins. Pregnant women and obese people frequently get hemorrhoids because of the extra weight and pressure placed on their bowels. Aging can also be a factor, as the muscles and tissue within the rectum tend to weaken as people get older.

In most cases, an internal hemorrhoid flare-up will last about one week. Individuals can relieve pain and irritation by soaking in a warm bath, keeping the area clean, and using over-the-counter medicated suppositories or topical ointments. Suppositories and creams usually contain a numbing agent and anti-inflammatory chemicals such as hydrocortisone. Since some creams are only intended for external use, it is important to carefully read warning labels before applying the product. An external-only cream may even cause additional irritation and itching if used on an internal hemorrhoid.

If an internal hemorrhoid does not go away after two weeks or causes severe pain, an individual should visit a doctor to learn about other treatment options. After conducting a physical exam, the doctor might prescribe anti-inflammatory drugs or inject the hemorrhoid with liquid medication to shrink it. Another medical procedure known as ablation involves exposing the hemorrhoid to infrared light or lasers that coagulate blood and cause the veins to harden and shrivel. In the case of an extremely large or painful hemorrhoid, the doctor might decide to surgically remove it with a scalpel.

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