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Why Are Hemorrhoids Sometimes Called Piles?

The Difference Between Hemorrhoids and Piles

You’ve been experiencing some discomfort and it’s gotten bad enough that you decide to consult your favorite online medical site, question-and-answer directory, or free encyclopedia on what you believe to be hemorrhoids. But as you read, you see this term pop up from time to time in reference to the condition, seemingly interchangeably: piles. You, being the curious type, start to wonder to yourself.

Just why is it that hemorrhoids are sometimes called piles?

There are several ways to explain why your uncomfortable affliction is sometimes referred to as piles, but being a modern man or woman living a fast-paced life of limited time, we’ll opt to share with you the shorter, simpler explanation.


Technically hemorrhoids are vascular structures, essentially cushions of tissue that contain blood vessels, located in the anal canal and assist the body in controlling the expulsion of stools. Whether itchy, burning, uncomfortable—or not—you always have hemorrhoids. They are a part of the body just like skin, ears, hair, your femur—you get the idea.


Piles, on the other hand, describe hemorrhoids when they become swollen or inflamed. During a period of irregular bowels (constipation or diarrhea), or due to straining, genetics, or any other number of factors, the connective tissue  in hemorrhoid cushions weaken and start to slide down into the anal canal.. You may or may not notice symptoms of these cushions, but once they become inflamed and swollen—when most people will start to notice them—they then are referred to, in the medical community, as piles.

Most people use the term hemorrhoids in place of piles, and many will use the terms interchangeably, but technically they’re hemorrhoids before they become symptomatic and piles after. So now you know.

Looking for treatment options? Find a hemorrhoid and piles treatment physician near you.