The very thought of hemorrhoids can make one uncomfortable. While the condition is more common among adults, it can also develop in babies and toddlers. They are painful hemorrhoids in babies can be handled with medical and home care.
In this MomJunction post, find out what causes hemorrhoids in babies, what are its symptoms and how it can be treated.
What Are Hemorrhoids?
Commonly known as piles, this is a condition where the tissues and blood vessels along the anal opening become swollen (1). The term ‘hemorrhoids’ is actually used for the soft tissue that lines the anus on the inside and slightly on the outside. Typically, hemorrhoids work as a cushion. But when they swell, they tend to protrude and cause pain and constant discomfort.
The term ‘hemorrhoids’ is also used colloquially to refer to the inflamed state of the tissue. Infants also have hemorrhoids tissue, which can swell sometimes.
What Causes Hemorrhoids In Babies?
The primary cause of hemorrhoids is repeated strain on the blood vessels and tissues of the rectal area (2). Frequent pressure on the blood vessels leads to inflammation and eventually piles. Here are a few reasons why a baby may strain the rectal tissue:
- Constipation: Constipation leads to repeated straining of the tissue for the release of feces. It is by far the most common cause of hemorrhoids.
- Diarrhea: It causes the infant to pass stool repeatedly. The frequent excretion of stools can exert the hemorrhoids tissue.
- Low fiber diet and poor hydration (in the case of toddlers): Fiber and water are vital for the smooth passage of stools. Low fiber and water intake can harden the stools, which require more pressure to pass.
- Improper toilet training: Toddlers with incorrect advice on potty training may sit on a toilet and strain hard to excrete. Repeated strain can cause piles even without constipation or diarrhea.
- Genetic anomalies: Some babies may develop hemorrhoids due to anomalies in their gastrointestinal tract. Those with a family history of the condition can be more prone to it.
Constipation and diarrhea are likely to be the two most common situations a baby may face. But how frequently can they develop hemorrhoids?
How Common Are Hemorrhoids In Babies?
Hemorrhoids are rare among babies and toddlers (3). A study on anorectal problems among children found an incidence of hemorrhoids at only 4.2%. The risk of piles becomes significant when the baby turns into a teen and a young adult.
If your baby is constantly crying when being seated or rested on the bottom or while passing the stool, then it is good to check for the symptoms of hemorrhoids.
What Are The Symptoms Of Hemorrhoids?
Parents will notice the following symptoms when a baby or a toddler has hemorrhoids:
- Blood spots in the diaper and the stool: It is going to be the first tell-tale sign. It is a good practice to check what came out in the diaper before disposing of it. Swollen veins of hemorrhoids can leak blood, which will find its way out with the feces. Blood spots in diapers and stool can indicate that the baby has piles. The chances of this are higher if the baby already has constipation.
- Redness, bleeding, and inflammation at the anus: If there is blood in stools and the diaper, check the baby’s anal opening. Hemorrhoids are visible from the outside as inflammation around the anus, along with redness. Severe cases will also cause small quantities of blood to accumulate around the anus.
- Itching and irritation: Hemorrhoids cause itching and discomfort in the lower pelvic region. A baby with hemorrhoids will repeatedly try touching their bottom. Older toddlers may frequently scratch their bottom and may even complain of discomfort around their anus.
It is good to see a doctor soon when you spot blood in baby’s diapers or stools.
How Are Hemorrhoids Diagnosed?
Doctors can diagnose hemorrhoids in babies and toddlers by visual inspection of the anal region. If the hemorrhoids are internal and not discernible, then a physical exam may be needed.
The doctor will gently palpate the area around the anus with their gloved fingers and check for any signs of internal hemorrhoid bleeding.
Other diagnostic methods such as anoscopy and proctoscopy (using a probe to inspect anus and rectum respectively) are highly unlikely to be used for infants and toddlers. These methods may be used when the bleeding is from parts of the gastrointestinal tract other than the anus.
How Are Hemorrhoids Treated In Babies?
- Treatment of the chronic cause: The first step will be to cure the underlying reason for piles. So if the baby has constipation or diarrhea, then the doctor will treat these conditions. Once the problem is remedied, wait for a few days to let the inflammation come down on its own.
- Warm water baths: Warm water baths can soothe the irritation caused by hemorrhoids. Let the baby soak in lukewarm water for about 10 minutes, twice a day. The warm water relaxes the hemorrhoid tissue and the inflamed blood vessels, thus soothing the irritation. Baths, in general, are quite soothing for infants and will help them feel better.
- Changes in diet: Provide more water and fiber-rich foods such as whole grains, carrots, broccoli, apples, and oranges to the toddler.
- Hemorrhoids creams: These creams relieve the itching of the anal region. Use the cream only as prescribed by the doctor. It has to be used for a limited period and is needed only when the baby suffers from intense itching.
Curing the underlying cause of the problem should help in curing the hemorrhoids. That said, you can also try a few home care measures to prevent the condition and spare the baby from the pain.
How To Prevent Hemorrhoids?
The following three measures can help mitigate a baby and toddler’s chances of developing hemorrhoids:
- Check for constipation and diarrhea: Be alert to the first signs of constipation and diarrhea since these problems can lead to piles when left unchecked. Diarrhea results in frequent and watery stools, while constipation causes the baby’s poop to become hard and lumpy. Acting fast on treating them will minimize the risk of developing hemorrhoids.
- Correct potty practice: Tell the toddler not to strain to poop. Also, do not force them to finish pooping in a stipulated time. Let them sit on the potty chair or toilet and wait until they naturally feel the urge to relieve themselves. This potty practice can prevent straining and inflammation of hemorrhoids in toddlers. The potty should be appropriate size for them or a foot stool can be used if the toilet is being used. The knees should ideally be higher than the hips.
- Balanced diet: Give the toddler the right mix of solid food, which includes high fiber food items. Get them to drink enough water so that they are always hydrated.
Hemorrhoids are uncomfortable and may interfere with the baby’s everyday activities. Although the condition is rare among infants, it is good to be observant and check for symptoms to address the problem well in time. Note that hemorrhoids are eventually avoidable with the right diet, early resolution of constipation and diarrhea, and correct toilet training.
Have something to share about hemorrhoids in babies? Do let us know in the comment section below.
2. Hemorrhoids; John Hopkins Medicine
3. N.D. Heaton et al., Symptomatic hemorrhoids and anorectal varices in children with portal hypertension; National Center for Biotechnology Information
4. Hemorrhoids and what to do about them; Harvard Medical School
5. 6 self-help tips for hemorrhoid flare-ups; Harvard Medical School