Hemorrhoids are among the most common afflictions of the gastrointestinal system. Among American adults, approximately half will have experienced symptoms of hemorrhoids by age 50. But since they can be an embarrassing condition to talk about, many people want to wait and see if their hemorrhoid symptoms resolve on their own before going to a doctor. How long your hemorrhoids last depend on their severity, classification, and lifestyle.
For most patients, hemorrhoids last anywhere from a few days to many weeks. Painful hemorrhoid symptoms will usually subside sooner if you are careful, follow best practices (outlined below), and implement a few at-home remedies (keep reading!).
What are the common causes of hemorrhoids?
Hemorrhoids are swollen veins in the rectum or anus that can cause discomfort and rectal bleeding. Hemorrhoids can be classified into internal hemorrhoids (inside the rectum) and external hemorrhoids (around the anus).
They are a common condition and are often caused by straining during bowel movements, pregnancy, aging, or chronic constipation or diarrhea. Other causes include:
- Obesity. Carrying a great deal of extra weight on your body creates excessive pressure on the veins and mucosa of the lower gastrointestinal tract.
- Too much sitting or standing. If you stand or sit for large periods at work or home, this applies pressure to the sensitive tissues of the anus and bowel as well.
- Coughing or sneezing. The brief increase in intra-abdominal pressure associated with coughing or sneezing can cause vein walls to weaken, allowing hemorrhoids to develop.
- Heavy physical labor. Much like straining with bowel movements, straining to lift or push heavy objects can result in hemorrhoids as well.
- Genetics. There is some evidence to suggest that the predisposition to developing hemorrhoids has a genetic component. If your parents commonly experienced hemorrhoids, you may be at increased risk of developing the same.
Doctors classify hemorrhoids into 4 grades. As the grade increases, so does the severity and duration of symptoms, as well as the risk of complications.
How long do hemorrhoids last?
How long hemorrhoids last will depend on their severity and classification. Most mild internal hemorrhoids resolve on their own within a few days but may take up to a week.
On the other hand, larger hemorrhoids will last up to 2-3 weeks, and since they’re more prone to complications, they might not resolve on their own, and you’ll need to visit a doctor.
Similarly, external hemorrhoids are usually painful, so you might need to visit a doctor as soon as they develop to get pain relievers.
Remember that hemorrhoids are a natural part of your body and everyone has them. Technically, you can never get rid of them (unless you have them surgically removed). So when we say how long hemorrhoids last, we’re talking about how long the symptoms of inflamed hemorrhoids last.
In case you’re wondering, here is how hemorrhoids are classified:
- Grade 1: These hemorrhoids don’t stick out of the anal opening — they only bleed. These are usually small, you can expect them to resolve within a week or two.
- Grade 2: These hemorrhoids can pop out of the anal canal — prolapsed hemorrhoids — but go inside on their own. Grade 2 hemorrhoids can also resolve within a week or two, but they may last longer if complications develop.
- Grade 3: These hemorrhoids need to be pushed back inside manually. These hemorrhoids also last up to a few weeks but have a higher risk of persisting due to complications.
- Grade 4: These hemorrhoids can’t be pushed back inside, and their blood supply may get compromised, leading to severe pain. Since these hemorrhoids are the most prone to developing complications, they might not resolve independently and may last up to a few weeks.
Since grade 3 and 4 hemorrhoids stick out of the anal canal, they’re prone to complications like strangulation (compromised blood supply) and clot formation. These complications can lengthen the duration of your hemorrhoids up to several weeks, and it’s best to see a doctor for them.
Can hemorrhoids return?
Yes, the symptoms of hemorrhoids can return. Although there’s not a lot of research on how often they recur, current data suggest that the recurrence rate depends on the type of treatment you get.
With non-surgical treatment techniques like rubber band ligation (usually used for mild, grade 1), hemorrhoids can return at a rate of 10-50% in 5 years. For surgical treatments, which is usually performed for more severe disease, this rate drops to less than 5%.
How long do thrombosed hemorrhoids last?
The pain of thrombosed hemorrhoids — formally called thrombosed external hemorrhoids — last for around 7-9 days, but the swelling itself can last up to 6 weeks. A thrombosed hemorrhoid has developed a clot inside it.
When someone develops a thrombosed hemorrhoid, pain and anal discomfort are the major symptoms for the first few days. As time passes, the clot is resorbed, but occasionally the skin overlying the clot may ulcerate and the contents of hemorrhoid will drain. This might cause significant bleeding while passing stool.
You should be aware that if a clot doesn’t get fully reabsorbed (or drained) within a few weeks, it might cause perianal tags to form.
How long do thrombosed hemorrhoids bleed?
When a thrombosed hemorrhoid ruptures, it may bleed anywhere from a few seconds to a few minutes. Importantly, it shouldn’t last more than 10 minutes. If it lasts more than 10 minutes, you should seek medical attention. It can mean an underlying clotting abnormality or some other problem.
Once the major bleeding episode is over, you may find intermittent traces of blood in your stool. And while ruptured hemorrhoid doesn’t require any treatment, you may want to take a Sitz bath to keep the area clean and help it heal well.
How to reduce the duration of hemorrhoids?
The best way to reduce the duration of hemorrhoid symptoms is to address the risk factors and try doctor-approved home remedies.
For example, one major risk factor for the development and worsening of hemorrhoids is constipation, which can be avoided by eating a diet rich in fiber. If your constipation persists, however, you might want to consider laxatives but only after a chat with your doctor.
There are many other, less intuitive risk factors for hemorrhoids. These include obesity, inflammatory bowel disease, prolonged sitting on the toilet, liver disease, a family history of hemorrhoids, spinal cord injury, and long-term diarrhea. Some of these can be treated to reduce the risk of future hemorrhoid development. It’s a good idea to talk to your doctor about these.
For mild hemorrhoids, it’s also important to try home remedies such as topical creams (which often contain steroids that reduce inflammation and pain), bathing your anal area in a warm water bath (Sitz bath), and oral painkillers like ibuprofen.
You can also try using soothing wipes to reduce the damage toilet paper can cause to your hemorrhoids. Some soothing wipes come with anti-hemorrhoid substances like aloe vera. If you can get your hands on these, you can reduce the discomfort your hemorrhoids are causing you and their duration.
Other simple remedies include wearing loose, cotton clothing, using ice packs, and applying a pure aloe vera gel on your hemorrhoids.
However, if symptoms persist longer than a week — or if they increase in severity — you must see your doctor. You should also be aware that using topical steroid cream for more than a week can lead to skin thinning. Make sure you seek advice from a doctor before doing this.
At-home remedies & treatment of hemorrhoids
If it appears your hemorrhoids are not going to go away on their own within a few days, there are several remedies you can try at home. These include the following:
- Sitz baths. These are a type of soak for the anus and buttocks where these body parts are immersed in warm water for 10-30 minutes at a time. This can provide relief to the tissues and help the veins to heal.
- Over-the-counter topical products. There are many hemorrhoid creams and lotions available that can provide pain relief to the affected area as well as aid in healing.
- Eating more fiber and drinking enough fluids. Not only does eating more fiber and staying hydrated help you avoid constipation and have bowel movements more quickly and avoid straining, but it also helps avoid irritation to current hemorrhoids.
- Cold therapy. If the pain or discomfort from hemorrhoids is persistent, try sitting on an ice pack for 15 to 30 minutes. Avoid exposing the affected tissues directly to the ice, however.
If the use of these techniques does not resolve your hemorrhoids after two weeks, call our office. We will suggest better treatment options, such as rubber band ligation, stapling, or (as a last resort) surgical removal.
How long does it take for hemorrhoids to shrink?
It takes about 7 days for hemorrhoids to shrink, depending on their severity and how well you take care of them.
How long does it take for hemorrhoids to go away completely?
It takes about 7-10 days for hemorrhoid symptoms to go away completely. But since they’re a natural part of the body, you can never get physically rid of them unless you have them surgically removed. You can get rid of only the symptoms that occur when hemorrhoids are inflamed.
Get rid of external hemorrhoids in 48 hours
To get rid of the pain of external hemorrhoids in 48 hours, use stool softeners, place a pillow under your hips and elevate your legs, or try a hydrocortisone ointment.
If this doesn’t help, you can ask your doctor about an office-based procedure, such as rubber band ligation. However, office-based procedures can be performed only for grade 1-3 hemorrhoids that don’t respond to medical treatment.
How long do hemorrhoids bleed?
Hemorrhoids generally bleed for only a few minutes. They can bleed for longer if someone has a bleeding disorder or low platelets. The bleeding can also last longer if you’re on blood thinners or have an anal fissure, which is easy to confuse with hemorrhoids.
How long do hemorrhoids last? Now you know!
Though rarely a serious condition, unresolved hemorrhoids and the pain associated with them can have a severe impact on your overall health and well-being.
If you are concerned, you might have hemorrhoids, or if the pain associated with hemorrhoids is affecting your daily life, contact your doctor for information about treatment options.