It’s pretty bad when you find out you’ve got hemorrhoids, but it can be a lot worse if you get hemorrhoids confused with another health issue. I mean, the pain, anxiety and embarrassment of discovering something wrong in the anal area is bad enough, much less not knowing exactly what you’ve got. On the bright side, there aren’t too many health conditions that can come up in that area. One of the most common health conditions confused with hemorrhoids is anal warts. While neither is very much fun, they stem from entirely different causes and are treated in very different ways.
Anal warts, also known as condyloma acuminata, are caused by the human papilloma virus (HPV). This virus is highly contagious and most often transmitted through sexual intercourse. Some strains of HPV can lead to increased risk of cervical cancer, but these are not the same strains as the ones that cause anal warts. The virus gets into the skin or mucous tissue cells and starts making them grow in the distinctive wart pattern. HPV infection does not lead to hemorrhoids. Hemorrhoids originate from weak points in hemorrhoidal veins below the skin or mucous tissue. As the weak point gives way, it stretches out and takes surrounding tissue with it. Traumatized hemorrhoids may get infected with a variety of bacteria and/or viruses, but infection does not lead to hemorrhoids. That would be like putting the cart before the horse.
Anal warts and hemorrhoids can both feel like lumps or masses of tissue around the anal area. However, there are several differences that can lead to a proper identification upon close inspection. While doing a close inspection may not sound like fun, it’s much better than trying unsuccessfully to treat the wrong thing. Upon said close inspection, anal warts have a distinctive “rough” texture and range in size from the head of a pin to about the size of a pea and are rather hard to the touch. They occur in clusters around the anal opening and may sometimes continue up towards the genital area. They almost never occur alone. Hemorrhoids, on the other hand, have a smooth texture that’s identical to the tissue they originate from, whether that’s external skin or internal mucous membrane. They are often soft or “squishy” to the touch, and they range in size from the size of a pea to the size of a grape. You’ll never find them anywhere except right around the anal opening. In addition, warts almost never hurt, though they may itch a bit. External hemorrhoids, on the other hand, often hurt quite a lot.
Hemorrhoids are usually best treated at home through a high-fiber diet, a healthy amount of exercise, and easily obtained over the counter relief. Home remedies often work well on hemorrhoids and surgery is only rarely needed. Anal warts, on the other hand, always have to be treated surgically, usually on an outpatient basis. The warts will not go away on their own. Instead, a physician has to use liquid nitrogen to freeze them off. In addition, hemorrhoids can often be kept away by keeping the lifestyle changes that were made to help cure them. Anal warts will often come back for no reason under your control, because the virus can live dormant in your skin cells for a long time. One day that virus can wake up and bam, you’ve got anal warts again.
So, as you can see, getting anal warts confused with hemorrhoids can lead to some serious problems. At the least you’ll be stuck trying to treat a problem you don’t have for a while. Why waste all that time and discomfort? If you can’t figure out what you’ve got on your own, make a doctor’s appointment and get your diagnosis confirmed. It’ll save you a lot of trouble, pain and grief in the long run.