Could it be... hemorrhoids?

Originally Published: November 1, 1996 - Last Updated / Reviewed On: May 22, 2014
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Dear Alice,

I have this problem and I am too embarrassed to ask a doctor about it. I am a nineteen-year-old male and have this growth in my anus. It popped up about one week ago. It is about the size of a pea. Could it be hemorrhoids? If not, what can it be? Should I be worried, and what should I do about it? Thank you.

Pea-Boy

Dear Pea-Boy,

Bumps, especially in tender, private places, can be troubling. A health care provider, who you see in person, is the best person to diagnose any growth (or other symptoms). Hemorrhoids do occur near the anus, but so can genital warts, molluscum, rashes, and other conditions that may resemble a pea.

Hemorrhoids, enlarged veins in the lower rectum and anus, are common and not serious. Straining to have a bowel movement, constipation, a low-fiber diet, pregnancy, overuse of laxatives, and prolonged sitting can cause hemorrhoids. Once hemorrhoids develop, they tend to persist, although they may not cause major problems. Discomfort and swelling may come and go, usually lasting between three to five days.

Common symptoms of hemorrhoids include:

  • pain or itching near the growth in the anus
  • bright red blood at the end of a bowel movement or on the toilet paper
  • excessively moist anal area

If you have hemorrhoids, try the following to alleviate symptoms:

  • Apply cold compresses of witch hazel for ten minutes, three to four times a day.
  • Use an ice bag for ten minutes.
  • Soak for ten to fifteen minutes in a warm bath a few times a day.
  • Lay on your stomach or back instead of sitting on the old rear end.
  • After a bowel movement, pat with toilet paper or gently wipe with witch hazel pads.
  • Avoid scratching, which often increases discomfort.
  • Stay away from anti-itch creams and lotions with "-caine" in their names -- the local anesthetic in these products can make the irritation worse.
  • Don't use products that advertise the ability to shrink swollen hemorrhoids because they're not very effective.
  • Have larger hemorrhoids surgically removed or medically treated.

Either way, adding fiber (such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans, nuts, and peas) and lots of fluids (at least two quarts of water and juices) to your diet may help prevent hemorroids (if you have them) in the future. Fiber adds bulk and moisture to the stool. If you want to increase fiber in your diet, do it slowly -- too much fiber at once can cause gas and stomach cramping. Exercising regularly may help because it improves abdominal muscle tone and makes bowel movements more regular and frequent. If you are significantly overweight, weight loss can also help.

Before you start trying to treat symptoms, it may be best to rule out any other potential causes of the pea-sized bump you've described. Though it may feel awkward, know that health care providers are trained professionals who can properly diagnose and treat these types of conditions — which will hopefully also relieve your worry! If you're a Columbia student, you can make an appointment by contacting Medical Services (Morningside) or the Student Health Service (CUMC).

Good luck sleuthing out the source of (and solution to) your lump,

Alice