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When to Call a Doctor

People may think that their symptoms are caused by hemorrhoids, and yet they may have other serious health problems. Cancer of the large intestine and other conditions have many of the same symptoms as hemorrhoids. For this reason, it is important to call your doctor if:

  • Rectal bleeding occurs for no apparent reason and is not associated with trying to pass stools.
  • Stools become more narrow than usual (may be no wider than a pencil).
  • Any unusual material seeps from the anus.
  • Fever accompanies bloody stool or what you think may be hemorrhoids.
  • A lump or bulge that is not tender and does not go away develops at the anal opening.

If you have hemorrhoids and think your symptoms are related to hemorrhoids, call your doctor if:

  • Moderate rectal pain caused by hemorrhoids lasts longer than one week after home treatment.
  • Pain and/or swelling caused by hemorrhoids is severe.
  • Tissue from inside the body bulges from the anus and does not return to normal after 3 to 7 days of home treatment.
  • A lump inside the end of the large intestine (anal canal) gets bigger or becomes more painful.

If rectal bleeding becomes heavy and/or changes color (such as from bright red to dark red), or if stools change color (from brown to maroon or black), check your symptoms using the topic Abdominal Pain.

If you have not been diagnosed with hemorrhoids but you have symptoms that concern you, use the Search feature to find more information on what to do about your symptoms.

Watchful Waiting

If you are younger than age 50 and occasionally have minimal rectal bleeding (bright red blood seen mainly on toilet paper) from hemorrhoids, you may try home treatment for 7 to 14 days if you are reasonably certain that the bleeding is caused by one of the following:

  • Straining to pass stools.
  • A known injury to the end portion of the large intestine (anal canal).

In most cases, bleeding caused by hemorrhoids should stop after 2 to 3 days. Continue home treatment to prevent bleeding from recurring.

  • If bleeding persists for more than one week without improvement, call your doctor.
  • If bleeding recurs, call your doctor.
  • If bleeding occurs when there is no reason to expect it, make an appointment to see your doctor.

If you are older than age 50, it is a good idea to consult your doctor any time you have new rectal bleeding, notice blood on your stools, have changes in bowel habits, or have anal pain. These symptoms may be signs of colon cancer or other conditions. Your doctor may recommend screening tests to see if you have a more serious problem. (See the section Exams and Tests in this topic.)

Who to See

Hemorrhoids can be evaluated by any of the following:

  • A family practice doctor
  • A doctor who specializes in internal medicine (internist)
  • A nurse practitioner
  • A physician assistant
  • A doctor who specializes in treating health conditions that arise during pregnancy (obstetrician)

If medical treatment or surgery is necessary, you may be referred to one of the following specialists:

  • A doctor who specializes in digestive system problems (gastroenterologist)
  • A general surgeon
  • A doctor who specializes in problems affecting the rectum and anus (proctologist)

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