Hemorrhoids are a common medical condition that around half the population will have experienced by the time they reach the age of 50.
Hemorrhoids are inflamed veins around your anus and within your lower rectum. They may be caused by straining during a bowel movement, spending too much time sitting on the toilet or having chronic constipation or diarrhea.
People between the ages of 45 and 65, pregnant women, and people who do a lot of heavy lifting are more at risk of developing hemorrhoids. Symptoms of hemorrhoids vary, depending on whether you have internal or external hemorrhoids, but may include:
Blood in your bowel movements or on the toilet paper when you wipe
Pain, irritation, or itching around your anus
Protrusions, hard lumps, or swelling around the anus
Hemorrhoids can also cause anal discharge in the form of clear fluid. You might notice this fluid after feeling dampness in your anal area or staining in your underpants.
While this clear fluid is usually not a cause for concern, you should understand what it is, how to treat it, and what may be causing it.
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Internal hemorrhoids are caused by blood vessels within the rectum that become inflamed and enlarged. This inflammation can result in mucus discharge from the anus, which will usually be a clear fluid slightly thicker than water. Discharge may also be somewhat yellow if pus is present from an infection or slightly red due to blood from inflamed veins inside the anus.
Leaking mucus from hemorrhoids usually stops after a few days of at-home treatment. However, you should see a doctor if the symptoms don't clear after a week of treatments or if your symptoms worsen. In the meantime, keep the anal area as clean and dry as possible. You should also increase your fiber intake and avoid straining during a bowel movement.
Hemorrhoids aren't the only medical condition that can cause anal discharge. Some of the other conditions that can result in anal discharge include:
Gonorrhea, HPV, chlamydia, and other STIs can cause anal discharge. These STIs may be due to unprotected anal intercourse or genital infection that spreads to the anus. Early diagnosis and treatment of STIs can help prevent further complications.
The underlying causes of IBS are still under investigation, but the condition may be due to hypersensitivity of the nerves and inflammation within the gastrointestinal system.
Along with anal discharge, symptoms may include:
Persistent pain in the upper or lower abdomen
Frequent changes in bowel movement
IBD is a collection of medical conditions caused by chronic inflammation in the gastrointestinal tract. This includes Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis.
While IBD doesn't cause anal discharge, it can increase your risk of developing other conditions that do, including fistulas (see below).
An anal abscess, also known as an anal fistula, is an infected sac of pus inside an anal gland.
The symptoms are similar to hemorrhoids, including discharge, bleeding, and swelling in the anus area. However, those suffering from an abscess or anal fistula may also experience increased fatigue and fever.
While yeast infections aren't classified as sexually transmitted infections, they can be transmitted through unprotected anal sex. The infection is caused by a yeast called Candida, which can be found in around 10% of people who are experiencing itching sensations around the anus. These infections can also cause anal discharge.¹
Rectal prolapse is a rare condition where the rectum drops down through the anus and is most common in people over the age of 50.
It can cause symptoms such as:
a mass protruding out of the anus
a feeling of incomplete defecation
a pressure sensation in the pelvic area
bloody or clear mucous rectal discharge
Certain cancers of the anus and rectum can cause anal discharge, especially if a tumor is growing in the anal area. The symptoms may be similar to hemorrhoids, as both conditions cause irritation to the anus and can produce bleeding, itching, pain, and a feeling of having an incomplete bowel movement.
Because initial symptoms may present like hemorrhoids, it's essential to talk to your doctor when you are experiencing anal discharge so they can determine the underlying cause and start the correct treatment.
Hemorrhoids are very treatable and often go away independently with at-home treatments and dietary and lifestyle changes. However, medical intervention is possible for more severe cases.
There are several options to treat hemorrhoids at home, including:
Over-the-counter treatment options: You can speak to your local pharmacist about over-the-counter treatments for hemorrhoids. Ointments, creams, suppositories, and pads can help relieve the symptoms of hemorrhoids while keeping the area around the anus clean to prevent infection.
Increasing your fiber intake: You may take a fiber supplement or eat more high-fiber foods such as beans, broccoli, berries, apples, and whole grains.
Taking warm baths: Sitting in a tub of warm water, called a sitz bath, can help relieve hemorrhoid symptoms. It also increases blood flow to the anus, which can help speed up your healing time.
Drink plenty of water: Boosting your water intake can help prevent constipation. Constipation may cause you to sit on the toilet for an extended period or strain to pass a bowel movement, which may further irritate your hemorrhoids.
Your doctor may recommend surgical intervention if at-home and over-the-counter treatment options don't work for your hemorrhoids. Treatment options include but aren't limited to:²
Rubber band ligation: Your doctor can place a rubber band around the base of a prolapsed hemorrhoid to restrict blood flow to the area. Without blood flow, hemorrhoids will shrivel and fall off within a few days.
Sclerotherapy: During sclerotherapy, a doctor will inject medication into your hemorrhoids that cause a scar, cutting off the blood supply and shrinking the hemorrhoids.
Hemorrhoidectomy: A doctor may surgically remove large or prolapsed hemorrhoids during a hemorrhoidectomy. You'll go under anesthesia for the surgery and, in most cases, can go home the same day.
Once your hemorrhoids go away, you'll want to decrease the risk of them returning. You can do this by:
Limiting the amount of time you spend sitting on the toilet
Resisting the urge to strain when having a bowel movement
Eating a diet that's high in fiber
Drinking plenty of water during the day
Using proper lifting techniques for heavy objects
If you are experiencing anal discharge, you should make an appointment with your doctor. While clear anal discharge is not caused for alarm in most cases, it may be a sign of a serious medical condition.
Only your doctor can determine the underlying cause and recommend the right course of treatment.
You should seek treatment right away if any anal discharge is accompanied by:
You should also talk to your doctor if at-home treatments haven't alleviated your symptoms after a week or if your symptoms worsen.
Hemorrhoids are a common medical condition experienced by around half of Americans before the age of 50. Hemorrhoids are inflammation of the veins in the anus or lower rectum, and symptoms may include blood in your stool, itching or pain around the anus, and hard lumps or protrusions around the anus.
Hemorrhoids may also cause a clear discharge slightly thicker than water in consistency. The discharge will usually stop after a few days of at-home hemorrhoid treatment. In severe cases, prolapsed or large hemorrhoids may need surgical intervention.
While hemorrhoids are a common cause of clear anal discharge, the watery discharge may also be due to sexually transmitted diseases, irritable bowel syndrome, or colorectal cancer. It's important to talk to your doctor about any anal discharge you may be experiencing so they can determine the underlying cause and offer you a treatment plan.
Pruritus ani (2016)
Treatment of hemorrhoids | National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK)
Definition & facts of hemorrhoids | National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK)
Symptoms & causes of hemorrhoids | National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK)
Hemorrhoids | Johns Hopkins Medicine
What is inflammatory bowel disease (IBD)? | Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Overview - Anal fistula | NHS