Hemorrhoidal disease is the most common cause of rectal bleeding in adults and generally one of the most frequent diagnoses in almost any anorectal complaint. Although hemorrhoids and other anorectal diseases are not life-threatening, individual patients can suffer from agonizing symptoms such as painful defecation, burning pain, itching with the urge to scratch (perianal pruritus), weeping of the wound and bleeding, which can limit social activities and have a negative impact on quality of life.

Source: Benson V and Marano MA. Current estimates from the National Health Interview Survey, 1995. National Center for Health Statistics. Vital Health Stat 10(199). 1998.

Who is at Risk for Hemorrhoids?

Certain patient populations are at particularly high risk for hemorrhoids:

  • At any time, up to 5% of the US population suffers from hemorrhoids
  • By age 50, about half of adults have had to deal with the itching, discomfort and bleeding that can signal the presence of hemorrhoids
  • Over 10 million patients admit to symptoms of hemorrhoidal disease, and one-third of them seek physician treatment

Hemorrhoids Overview

A Common Gastrointestinal Disorder

Hemorrhoids are a common gastrointestinal disorder characterized by pain, swelling, itching, tenderness, and bleeding. Although hemorrhoids are not life-threatening, individual patients often suffer painful symptoms that can limit social activities and have a negative impact on the quality of life.

In the United States, hemorrhoids affect nearly 5% of the population, with approximately 10 million patients annually reporting symptoms of hemorrhoidal disease. Approximately one-third visit a physician for evaluation and treatment of their hemorrhoids. More than half of the US population will experience hemorrhoidal disease at least once in their life. For both men and women, peak prevalence occurs between 45 and 65 years of age (See figure).

Hemorrhoids are defined as internal or external according to their position relative to the dentate line. Classification is important for selecting the optimal treatment for an individual patient. Accordingly, physicians use the following grading system:

Grade I   Hemorrhoids not prolapsed but bleeding
Grade II  Hemorrhoids prolapse and reduce spontaneously with or without bleeding
Grade III  Prolapsed hemorrhoids that require reduction manually
Grade IV  Prolapsed and cannot be reduced, including both internal and external hemorrhoids that are confluent from skin tag to inner anal canal