External hemorrhoids can occur when there is increased pressure within the external hemorrhoidal veins. When these veins around the anus become swollen and inflamed, a person may develop symptoms such as anal itching, bleeding, and pain. There are several factors that can increase your risk of developing this condition. For example, pregnancy, obesity, and cirrhosis are some of the conditions that can put extra pressure on the external hemorrhoidal veins. Treatment options can include dietary changes, modified bowel habits, and surgery.
What Are External Hemorrhoids?
The term hemorrhoids refers to a condition in which the veins around the anus or lower rectum are swollen and inflamed. There are several groups of veins that surround the rectum and anus -- one group is known as internal hemorrhoidal veins, the others are known as external hemorrhoidal veins. External hemorrhoids are caused by increased pressure within the external hemorrhoidal veins.
There are a number of conditions that can increase pressure within the external hemorrhoidal veins. These risk factors include:
- Straining to move stool, or other poor bowel habits such as sitting for long periods
- Chronic constipation or diarrhea
- Anal intercourse
- A high-fat, low-fiber diet.
(Click Causes of Hemorrhoids for more information.)
Unlike internal hemorrhoids, which are usually not painful, external hemorrhoids can be quite painful. For a person with an external hemorrhoid, symptoms may also include:
- Anal itching.
These symptoms can be caused by excessive straining, rubbing, or cleaning around the anus. Draining mucus may also cause itching.
External hemorrhoid symptoms may also include a hard lump around the anus that results when a blood clot forms. This condition is known as a thrombosed external hemorrhoid.
Keep in mind that not everyone with external hemorrhoids will have symptoms.