Alcohol is a diuretic, which increases a person’s urine production. This can lead to dehydration and increase the likelihood of constipation. People with constipation are more likely to strain during bowel movements. Straining is one of the major causes of hemorrhoids.

This article looks at associations between alcohol and hemorrhoids, which some may refer to as piles, and possible links between liver disease, liver cirrhosis, and hemorrhoid development.

It also explores hemorrhoid symptoms, treatments, possible complications, other causes, and preventions.

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According to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, hemorrhoids affect around 1 in 20 people in the United States, and around 50% of people over 50 have hemorrhoids. Alcohol consumption is an associated risk factor for hemorrhoids.

Consuming alcohol can indirectly lead to the development of hemorrhoids in several ways. These include:

Dehydration

Drinking alcohol can increase urine production, causing a person to excrete a greater volume of urine more frequently.

The large intestine absorbs water as stool moves through the intestine. If a person is dehydrated and there is not enough fluid in the body, the intestine will remove extra water from the stool. This can cause stools to become dry and hard, making it difficult to pass them through the body.

The risk of developing constipation increases due to dehydration. As the stool cannot easily pass through the anus, a person may strain harder than usual during bowel movements. This strain can cause increased pressure in the abdomen, affecting the anus and rectum and resulting in hemorrhoids.

Obesity

Alcohol consumption over time can result in obesity, which can increase the risk of hemorrhoids.

While the risk of developing hemorrhoids does not exclusively link to weight, associated factors may contribute, such as:

  • pressure in the abdomen
  • chronic inflammation
  • venous congestion, which is congestion in the system of veins in the body

High blood pressure

Excessive alcohol consumption is one of the most common causes of high blood pressure.

Increased pressure in the blood vessels around the anus can cause them to inflame and swell, resulting in hemorrhoids.

Hemorrhoids may, in some cases, signify a liver problem that may relate to alcohol consumption.

Liver disease

Liver disease is a group of issues that damage the liver and affect its functioning. Excessive alcohol consumption can lead to alcohol-related liver disease.

Since liver disease may cause a backup of blood flow to the liver, it can, in turn, cause issues with blood drainage. Drainage issues can lead the veins around the anus to become swollen and inflamed, which can contribute to hemorrhoids.

Liver cirrhosis

Excessive alcohol consumption can also lead to cirrhosis of the liver. In cirrhosis, scar tissue builds up in the liver over time, affecting blood flow and causing the liver to stop functioning correctly. The veins cannot properly drain blood, as the scarring takes up more space. This may lead to swelling, which can cause hemorrhoids.

Hemorrhoids are swollen veins in the lower part of the rectum and anus. These veins can become irritated and painful as the blood vessels stretch. Symptoms can depend on whether a person has external or internal hemorrhoids.

External hemorrhoid symptoms

External hemorrhoids may cause the following:

  • one or more tender, hard lumps near the anus
  • anal itching
  • pain or aching in the anus, especially while sitting

These symptoms may worsen if someone strains, cleans, or rubs the area around the anus too much. External hemorrhoids usually shrink and stop causing problems within a few days.

Learn more about how long hemorrhoids last.

Internal hemorrhoid symptoms

Internal hemorrhoids can involve a prolapsed hemorrhoid that has fallen through the opening of the anus. A person may also experience bleeding from the rectum during a bowel movement and notice bright red blood in the toilet bowl or toilet paper.

Prolapsed hemorrhoids can cause pain, while nonprolapsed internal hemorrhoids are typically painless. It is best for a person with any of the above symptoms to contact a doctor.

The symptoms of hemorrhoids typically clear up on their own or with OTC treatment. However, hemorrhoids can recur.

In some cases, complications may occur. These can include:

  • blood clots with hemorrhoids
  • skin tags — extra skin left behind when a blood clot in an external hemorrhoid dissolves
  • infection of a sore on an external hemorrhoid
  • a strangulated hemorrhoid, in which the muscles around the anus block the blood supply to a prolapsed hemorrhoid, causing severe pain
  • anemia, if a person loses a significant amount of blood due to hemorrhoids

If a person experiences pain, bleeding, or fever with hemorrhoids or any of the above complications, it is best to contact a doctor so they can provide a suitable diagnosis and treatment.

A person may be able to treat hemorrhoids at home with over-the-counter (OTC) suppositories, creams, or ointments. These may relieve pain, itching, and swelling associated with external hemorrhoids.

A doctor will treat hemorrhoids depending on their severity and symptoms.

Treatments can involve surgery, including:

  • Rubber band ligation or hemorrhoid banding: A doctor may use this procedure to treat prolapsing internal hemorrhoids. It involves tying a rubber band around the base of a hemorrhoid to cut off the blood supply. As a result, the banded part of the hemorrhoid typically shrivels and falls off.
  • Electrocoagulation: A medical professional sends an electric current into an internal hemorrhoid using a special tool. This causes scar tissue to form, which stops the blood supply to the hemorrhoid and causes it to shrink.
  • Infrared photocoagulation: A doctor uses a special tool to direct infrared light at the internal hemorrhoids. Similarly to electrocoagulation, the heat from this light causes scar tissue to develop and hemorrhoids to shrink from lack of blood.
  • Sclerotherapy: This is where a doctor injects hemorrhoids with a special solution, causing scar tissue to develop and making the hemorrhoids shrink.
  • Hemorrhoid stapling: To perform this procedure, a surgeon uses a stapling tool to remove internal hemorrhoid tissue and return prolapsing hemorrhoids into the anus.
  • Hemorrhoidectomy: A surgeon may perform this to remove prolapsing internal and large external hemorrhoids if they do not respond to other treatments.

Following surgery, approximately 95% of people do not develop internal hemorrhoids again.

However, postsurgery complications may develop in some cases, including:

Learn more about surgery for hemorrhoids.

Other causes and triggers of hemorrhoids include:

  • sitting for long periods, especially on the toilet
  • diarrhea
  • chronic constipation
  • not eating enough high fiber foods
  • pregnancy
  • lifting heavy objects
  • weight gain
  • genetics
  • aging

A person may be able to prevent hemorrhoids by taking steps to avoid constipation and straining, which can lead to the condition.

These may include:

Alcohol consumption can indirectly lead to hemorrhoids in several ways. For example, it can cause dehydration, which may lead to constipation and cause a person to strain during bowel movements.

High blood pressure, liver disease, and cirrhosis related to alcohol consumption may cause the blood vessels around the anus to become swollen and inflamed. Obesity may lead to pressure in the abdomen, chronic inflammation, and venous congestion, which may cause hemorrhoids.

A person can typically treat hemorrhoids at home with OTC medications, although severe and recurrent cases may require medical treatment or surgery. Individuals may be able to prevent hemorrhoids by making lifestyle changes, such as staying hydrated, eating a high fiber diet, and maintaining a moderate weight.