Hemorrhoids are the blood vessels found in the lower rectum and lining of the anus. While everyone has hemorrhoids, the term is commonly used to describe swelling and inflammation of these blood vessels. The most common symptoms of hemorrhoids include itching, irritation, pain and bleeding in the anal area. However, other complications may occur.
Hemorrhoids that are bleeding for a long time can lead to anemia, a deficiency of oxygenating red blood cells. Anemia can cause fatigue and weakness.
When an internal hemorrhoid, a swollen vessel located inside the lower rectum, protrudes from the anus and cannot be pushed back inside, the pressure of the anal sphincter can cut off blood flow to the swollen vessel, resulting in a strangulated hemorrhoid. The lack of blood flow to a strangulated hemorrhoid can cause the blood vessel and tissue to die, a serious condition known as gangrene. Gangrene requires immediate medical attention.
A strangulated hemorrhoid can also turn into an abscess. An abscess is an accumulation of pus and can cause increased pain, fever, and vomiting.
An external hemorrhoid occurs under the skin surrounding the anus. In some cases, a blood clot known as a thrombosis can develop around an external hemorrhoid, creating a sensitive lump that is blue or purple in color. A thrombosed hemorrhoid can be very painful and typically requires immediately medical attention. In addition, a thrombosis can cause scar tissue as it heals, resulting in a skin tag protruding from the anus. Although the skin tag itself is not dangerous or painful, it may interfere with cleaning or cause irritation around the anus.
To prevent complications associated with hemorrhoids, contact your doctor if at-home treatments do not resolve symptoms. Also, you should call your doctor immediately if you experience rectal bleeding in order to rule out other causes.