Are Hemorrhoids Contagious?

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Everyone has hemorrhoidal tissue, but having hemorrhoids means this tissue, which is in and around the anus and rectum, becomes swollen and irritated. This is usually caused by pressure.

Hemorrhoids are quite common. Almost half of all people will have or have had hemorrhoids by the time they turn 50. There are various causes, but hemorrhoids are not contagious.

Read on to learn more about why hemorrhoids occur and how to treat them.

A torso view of a woman sitting on a couch with her hand on her buttocks.

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Are Hemorrhoids Contagious?

Hemorrhoids are not contagious.

However, symptoms of hemorrhoids can be similar to those of other conditions, some of which are contagious (such as genital warts). It's important to get an accurate diagnosis when experiencing symptoms of hemorrhoids.

What Causes Hemorrhoids?

The exact cause of hemorrhoids isn't well understood, but the condition is believed to be caused by pressure in the area.

Some factors that can make hemorrhoids more likely to develop include:

  • Constipation (often associated with a low-fiber diet)
  • Frequent diarrhea
  • Heavy lifting
  • Pregnancy
  • Large body mass
  • Sitting on the toilet for long periods
  • Straining during a bowel movement
  • Family history of hemorrhoids

Age can also play a factor. The connective tissues that support hemorrhoids often weaken with age, and are less efficient at holding hemorrhoids in place. This can cause them to bulge and prolapse.

Some studies suggest people with hemorrhoids tend to have tighter than average smooth muscle of the anal canal. Combined with constipation, this can increase straining during bowel movements and potentially lead to hemorrhoids.

Symptoms of Hemorrhoids

Symptoms depend on the type, location, and severity of hemorrhoids.

External hemorrhoids occur under the skin near the anal opening. Internal hemorrhoids form inside the lining of the lower rectum, above the anal opening, but may prolapse (come down out of the anus).

Internal Hemorrhoids

Internal hemorrhoids are classified into four categories:

  • First-degree: Hemorrhoids are enlarged and may bleed but do not protrude out of the anal cavity
  • Second-degree: Hemorrhoids prolapse during bowel movements or straining but go back into the canal on their own
  • Third-degree: Hemorrhoids prolapse and can be put back inside the canal manually
  • Fourth-degree: Hemorrhoids prolapse and cannot go back into the canal, even manually

The most common symptom of first-degree internal hemorrhoids is bright red bleeding (usually painless) found on toilet paper, in the toilet bowl water, or coating the outside of stool.

Other symptoms that can occur, particularly with prolapse, include:

  • Mild fecal incontinence
  • Mucus discharge
  • Sensation of perianal (the area around the anus) fullness
  • Irritation of perianal skin
  • Pain

External Hemorrhoids

Symptoms of external hemorrhoids include:

  • Itching in the anal area
  • Hard, tender lump(s) near the anus
  • Ache or pain in the anal area, especially when sitting

Occasionally, an external hemorrhoid will develop a blood clot, called a thrombosis. Thrombosed hemorrhoids can cause sudden pain and appear bluish in color. They usually get better on their own within a few days as the clot is reabsorbed, but in some cases the clot needs to be removed.

How Common Are Hemorrhoids?

It's difficult to know the exact prevalence of hemorrhoids because most people with hemorrhoids don't seek medical care. About 40% of people with hemorrhoids do not experience symptoms. It's estimated that about all people will experience hemorrhoids by age 50.

Hemorrhoid Treatment

Most hemorrhoids get better on their own or with at-home treatment, including:

  • Increasing fiber intake
  • Increasing fluid intake
  • Regular exercise
  • Preventing constipation
  • Avoiding straining, such as during a bowel movement or lifting heavy objects
  • Spending less time sitting on the toilet
  • Applying ice packs
  • Taking warm baths or sitz baths (shallow baths for the buttocks and hips)

Over-the-counter topical hemorrhoid treatments may offer some relief temporarily, but have not been studied for long-term safety and effectiveness. They may include ingredients such as:

  • Astringents (witch hazel)
  • Protectants (zinc oxide)
  • Decongestants (phenylephrine)
  • Corticosteroids
  • Topical anesthetics

Always check with a healthcare provider before using hemorrhoid treatments.

Treatments for More Severe Hemorrhoids

If hemorrhoids are more severe, complicated, or are not responding to treatment, medical procedures may be needed.

In-office medical procedures cause scar tissue to form, which cuts off blood supply to the hemorrhoid, often causing it to shrink. These procedures include:

  • Rubber band ligation: A healthcare provider places a special rubber band around the base of the hemorrhoid. The banded part of the hemorrhoid shrivels and falls off (usually within a week), causing scar tissue to form.
  • Sclerotherapy: A solution is injected into the internal hemorrhoid.
  • Infrared photocoagulation: A tool that creates heat through infrared light is directed at an internal hemorrhoid.
  • Electrocoagulation: Using a special tool, a healthcare provider sends an electric current into an internal hemorrhoid.

Surgical procedures are also options. These are typically done using anesthesia, with the person going home the same day. They include:

  • Hemorrhoidectomy: A healthcare provider (usually a surgeon) removes large external hemorrhoids and prolapsing internal hemorrhoids that are unresponsive to other treatments.
  • Hemorrhoid stapling: A special stapling tool removes internal hemorrhoid tissue and pulls a prolapsing internal hemorrhoid back into position in the anus.

Summary

Hemorrhoids are not contagious, but symptoms can be similar to other contagious conditions, so an accurate diagnosis is needed.

Most hemorrhoid symptoms, such as bleeding, pain, and itching, go away on their own or with at-home treatments. Hemorrhoids that are more serious or resistant to treatment may need medical procedures or surgery.

A Word From Verywell

Hemorrhoids can't be passed from one person to another, so you don't need to worry about "catching" them or infecting someone else. But if you have symptoms of hemorrhoids, it's important to get evaluated by a healthcare provider to rule out other conditions. Though hemorrhoids can be painful, they usually go away on their own.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Are hemorrhoids an STI?

    Hemorrhoids are not sexually transmitted or contagious. Genital warts and herpes are conditions caused by sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and can have similar symptoms to hemorrhoids. Have symptoms checked by a healthcare provider to ensure an accurate diagnosis.

  • Can hemorrhoids spread?

    Hemorrhoids do not spread from person to person, nor to other parts of the body. Rarely can a hemorrhoid become infected. However, if not treated, it is possible for this infection to spread within the body.

  • Can you get hemorrhoids from sex?

    Anal sex is not commonly noted as a cause for hemorrhoids, but hemorrhoids can make anal sex feel uncomfortable or painful. If you experience pain during anal intercourse, see your healthcare provider.

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11 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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