Hemorrhoids can cause or contribute to constipation. In some cases, they may even worsen it. However, the reverse is also true, with constipation being an underlying factor for developing hemorrhoids.

Hemorrhoids can cause discomfort and make passing stools more difficult. Also, the fear of pain may cause some people to avoid having a bowel movement, leading to stool buildup.

Sometimes, hemorrhoids obstruct the stool passageway and can further exacerbate constipation.

Treatment may include increasing fiber intake, regular exercise, and using hemorrhoidal ointments. Any person with long-term constipation should consult a doctor.

This article discusses hemorrhoid-related constipation, how to relieve it, and answers some FAQs on hemorrhoids and constipation.

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Hemorrhoids, or piles, are inflamed and swollen veins around the anus, the opening at the end of the rectum through which stools pass. Hemorrhoids are common; approximately 50% of people older than 50 in the United States have hemorrhoids.

There are two types of hemorrhoids – internal and external. Internal hemorrhoids develop in the lining of the anus and lower rectum, and external hemorrhoids form under the skin surrounding the anus.

Expert opinion

Medical News Today reached out to Dr. Onikepe Adegbola, Ph.D., founder of Casa de Sante — a digital gut platform for people with gastrointestinal conditions — for her explanation of why hemorrhoids might cause or worsen constipation.

“When inflamed, hemorrhoids cause discomfort, pain, and itching in the affected area, which makes passing stools difficult and leads to constipation,” said Dr. Adegbola. She added, “They may also cause bleeding during bowel movements, further aggravating constipation. Another factor is that people with hemorrhoids may avoid going to the bathroom due to discomfort or fear of pain, which in turn leads to stool buildup and constipation.”

Aside from the above factors, hemorrhoids can act as an obstruction, which compounds constipation.

Medical News Today also spoke with Dr. David Seltz, medical director for Ascendant Detox — a drug and alcohol detox center — who explained, “The swollen veins can block or slow down the passage of stool.”

Learn more about the causes and treatment for itchy hemorrhoids.

The reverse — can constipation cause hemorrhoids?

The link between hemorrhoids and constipation goes both ways, as sometimes, constipation can cause hemorrhoids. This can happen in various ways.

Constipation and straining during bowel movements are common risk factors for hemorrhoids. Excessive abdominal pressure from both can stretch the small veins around the anus and rectum. The stretching reduces the elasticity in the veins, causing them to enlarge and swell with blood. When this happens, the veins have a high risk of fragility and blood clot formation.

Learn what happens when hemorrhoids fill with blood.

Treatment for hemorrhoid-related constipation differs slightly from the treatment for other causes of constipation. Dr. Adegbola suggests the following strategies to relieve constipation from hemorrhoids:

  • Increase fiber intake: Eating more fiber can help soften the stool, making it easier to pass. Individuals can get this from daily servings of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. Taking some fiber supplements can provide extra convenience.
  • Drink plenty of water: Staying hydrated is essential for softening stools and avoiding constipation.
  • Exercise regularly: Physical activity can help stimulate bowel movements and prevent constipation.
  • Take a sitz bath: A sitz bath involves soaking in a warm, shallow tub to help reduce pain and inflammation in the anal region. A daily soak for 10–15 minutes may be helpful.
  • Use topical treatments: Over-the-counter creams, ointments, and suppositories can help relieve hemorrhoid symptoms and reduce pain and itching.”

Learn about some other home remedies to relieve hemorrhoids.

Taking laxatives

Dr. Adegbola recommends the type of laxatives called stool softeners, which increase the amount of fat and water in the stool. “They can help ease bowel movements and reduce straining,” she said. “A person should talk with their doctor about which stool softener would be most beneficial for them.”

It is best to use laxatives only on a short-term basis and after other measures have not been effective. Any person with long-term constipation should consult a doctor.

Learn about some natural stool softeners.

Below are some answers to common questions on this topic:

Do hemorrhoids go away?

According to one source, the pain and swelling usually decrease in 2–7 days if a person uses nonsurgical treatment. It may take 4–6 weeks for a firm lump to recede.

Learn more about how long hemorrhoids last.

Can constipation cause hemorrhoids to bleed?

Yes, constipation is one of the factors that may cause this.

“When stools are hard, they can be difficult and painful to pass,” said Dr. Seitz. “This increases pressure on the veins in the rectum and may cause them to swell and bleed. Straining during bowel movements will also put extra pressure on the veins, which can lead to bleeding.”

Learn more about bleeding hemorrhoids.

Can hemorrhoids affect bowel movements?

In addition to worsening constipation, hemorrhoids can affect bowel movements in another way.

“They can cause a feeling of fullness or pressure in the rectum due to the enlarged veins,” said Dr. Seitz. “This can trigger the need to have a bowel movement even after going to the bathroom.”

Learn more about why a bowel movement may hurt.

Several factors relating to hemorrhoids can cause or contribute to constipation. The associated discomfort with hemorrhoids can make passing stools more difficult, and the dread of pain can sometimes cause a person to delay going to the bathroom. Delaying bowel movements can lead to stool accumulation.

Also, hemorrhoids can block the passageway through which stools exit the body, worsening constipation.

Relief can come from drinking more water and consuming more fiber, such as fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. Over-the-counter ointments for hemorrhoids may also help. When such measures are ineffective, a person should talk with a doctor.