Piles are round swellings (dilated blood vessels) on the inside of your anal canal – the short, muscular tube that connects your rectum (back passage) with your anus. They develop in areas known as the anal cushions. The blood vessels may become swollen, most often as a result of straining when you have a bowel movement.

You can get piles at any age, but they are most common in people over 65. Up to three in four people get piles at some time in their life. If you're overweight you're more likely to get piles. Piles aren't cancerous and you can't catch them from someone else.

Types of Piles

Although piles develop inside your anal canal, they can hang down from your anus. They are graded as follows.

  • First degree piles are swellings on the inside lining of your anal canal. They may bleed but can't be seen from outside your anus.
  • Second degree piles are larger than first degree piles. They stick out of your anus when you have a bowel movement, but go back inside on their own afterwards.
  • Third degree piles hang down from your anus and only go back inside when you push them in.
  • Fourth degree piles permanently hang down from your anus and you can't push them back in. They may become very swollen and painful if the blood inside them clots.

Symptoms of Piles

  • Bleeding from your anus
  • A lump on your anus
  • A slimy discharge of mucus
  • A feeling that your bowels haven't emptied completely