Did you know that almost 40%¹ of Americans have hemorrhoids? The condition is common in men and women, especially those over 50. Hemorrhoids often come with certain complications, including blood clots, skin tags, and anemia. Common symptoms include pain, burning sensation, and discomfort.
But do hemorrhoids smell, and how bad? Generally, hemorrhoids do not smell. However, you may notice a bad odor from your hemorrhoids for various reasons.
This article discusses what causes hemorrhoids to smell and how to overcome it. But first, the basics.
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Hemorrhoids², also known as piles, are inflamed or swollen veins around the anus and anal canal. They can be painful and uncomfortable, sometimes causing rectal bleeding.
Semantically, every person has hemorrhoids. Hemorrhoids are normal anatomical vessels, i.e., hemorrhoidal plexus.
However, when they swell and enlarge, hemorrhoids produce irritating symptoms — and that's when they become a problem. We call this hemorrhoidal disease (or hemorrhoids for short).
Hemorrhoids affect people of all genders, races, ages, and ethnicities, but they are common as you age, affecting more than 50% of people over 50.
Hemorrhoids are broadly grouped into two — internal and external hemorrhoids. This classification is based on how they develop.
Internal hemorrhoids form deep inside the anus. They form in the lining of the anus and lower rectum. Unless prolapsed, you cannot see internal hemorrhoids, but they can cause bleeding after defecation, which you may notice in the toilet or on used toilet paper. They can also cause mucus discharge and tenesmus (feeling of incomplete defecation).
External hemorrhoids are closer to the anal opening in the anal canal. They can be itchy and painful, and occasionally they may bleed.
Symptoms of hemorrhoids may vary depending on your type of hemorrhoid. Common signs include:
Irritation or itching around the anal area
Soreness, pain, and discomfort around the anus
External hemorrhoids are more likely to cause pain compared to internal hemorrhoids.
Generally, hemorrhoids aren't linked to smell unless they are associated with an infection, fecal or mucus discharge/leakage, or lead to improper hygiene due to ongoing pain and discomfort or skin tags. Moreover, the smells vary depending on the cause of your hemorrhoids and can be difficult to describe.
You may experience a foul or lingering odor as a result of hemorrhoids. Some people experience a fishy smell from the lower rectal region. The smell can be from a mucus discharge produced by the lining of the enlarged hemorrhoids and excreted from your rectum.
You may also experience a fecal smell if the hemorrhoid odor stems from difficulty cleaning your anus owing to discomfort or skin tags. An infection/abscess-caused smell is described as rotten or rank.
Hemorrhoids generally do not produce a bad smell. However, various factors can make your hemorrhoids smell bad. Here are some common causes of hemorrhoid odor.
Large and inflamed hemorrhoids often ooze mucus that causes a foul smell. Sometimes you may excrete mucus through your anus when passing out gas. Also, you may observe the secretion on your toilet paper after cleaning yourself.
Sometimes you may experience difficulties cleaning your anus due to inflamed or painful hemorrhoids, which may leave traces of fecal matter around the anus, contributing to the foul smell.
Infected hemorrhoids often develop pus-filled abscesses that produce a foul-smelling odor. Infection occurs when internal piles prolapse (they bulge outside the anus and lose their blood supply). This mainly happens when internal hemorrhoids get strangulated, i.e., their blood supply is cut off, and they start developing gangrenous changes.
In extremely rare cases, infection associated with hemorrhoids caused by "flesh-eating" bacteria (typically multibacterial) can progress to a potentially life-threatening form of necrotizing soft tissue infection known as Fournier's gangrene³.
The disease comes with the following symptoms:
Perineal pain and swelling
Redness and discoloration
Rapid heart rate
If you have any of these symptoms, you should seek immediate medical help. Although extremely unlikely, Fournier's gangrene can cause a foul smell associated with hemorrhoids.
Fecal leakage can occur when you can't close your anus completely due to prolapsed internal hemorrhoids and can produce a foul smell.
Skin tags, common with chronic external hemorrhoids, may be difficult to clean after having prolonged contact with fecal material and cause a smell.
Hemorrhoid odors can sometimes be embarrassing, especially when you're around people with little understanding of the condition. Luckily, there are various ways to minimize, if not prevent, the bad smell.
Before seeking help from your doctor, you can try home remedies to remove hemorrhoid odors.
Warm baths: Frequent warm baths, especially after bowel movements, can help subdue hemorrhoids. This can help to eliminate the foul smell, making you comfortable around people.
Medicated wipes: Some medicated wipes are specifically designed for hemorrhoid relief. They are for those with a sore anus who find it difficult to maintain hygiene.
Use a bidet: Sometimes, wiping your anus with toilet paper irritates. But this doesn't mean you shouldn't wipe your anus clean. Consider using a bidet to clean your anus to minimize the bad hemorrhoid smell.
Rule out a possible infection: You should have a doctor diagnose your condition and rule out any possible infection. If you have an infection, you should treat it immediately.
Your hemorrhoids will eventually go away themselves or with home remedies. However, there are some instances when you must seek medical help. For instance, if you experience bleeding or black-colored bowel movements, call your doctor right away. Such symptoms can indicate a more serious condition that requires proper medical attention.
Moreover, if you experience a lot of pain or discomfort, or show infection symptoms, speak to your doctor for evaluation and appropriate treatment. You should also reach out for help if your home remedies aren't working.
Your doctor may recommend and initiate various treatments depending on the type of hemorrhoids and your symptoms. Here are various hemorrhoids treatments.
Electrocoagulation: Your doctor uses an electric current to stop blood flow to hemorrhoids.
Rubber band ligation: A small rubber band is placed around the base of hemorrhoid to cut off the blood supply to the vein.
Sclerotherapy: Your doctor injects a chemical into the swollen vein to dismantle hemorrhoid tissue.
Infrared coagulation: The doctor inserts a small probe into the rectum that transmits heat to eliminate hemorrhoids.
Hemorrhoids are common in men and women over 50. They are grouped into two — internal and external hemorrhoids. Symptoms vary depending on the type of hemorrhoid, often including rectal bleeding, protruding lumps, and irritation or itching around the anus.
Although hemorrhoids aren't associated with smell, they sometimes produce odor caused by anal discharge, infection, or fecal leakage.
Various home remedies can help minimize the odors, including taking frequent home baths and using medicated wipes to clean your anus. However, you should seek help whenever you experience discomfort, bleeding/black-colored bowel movements, or when you show symptoms of an infection.
Your doctor will examine you and recommend the best treatment options, including electrocoagulation, sclerotherapy, and infrared coagulation.
Hemorrhoid smell varies depending on the cause. For example, odors caused by a mucus discharge are described as "fishy." Those caused by infection are described as rotten or rank. A fecal smell stems from a poorly cleaned anus.
Anal discharge, infection, and fecal leakage can all cause your hemorrhoids to smell.
Various home remedies can help you get rid of hemorrhoid odor. This includes frequent warm baths, using medicated wipes, and cleaning your anus thoroughly and regularly. Some creams can also help eliminate the bad smell.
Fournier gangrene | NORD
Rexall medicated wipes | DailyMed
What is a bidet? How does it work? | Forbes
What to do if your hemorrhoids smell | Surgery Group LA