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Hemorrhoids, or piles, are swollen blood vessels around your anus or inside your lower rectum. They form when there’s too much pressure on your anus. Chronic constipation, prolonged sitting, and a family history of hemorrhoids are some factors that can contribute to their development.

Hemorrhoids become more common with age. The National Institutes of Health says that about 1 in 20 Americans have them, and that number increases to about 1 in 2 in adults who are more than 50 years old.

Itchiness, pain, and bleeding are common symptoms of hemorrhoids. Although it’s not a typical symptom, a bad odor can be a symptom of hemorrhoids. A bad smell can also be a symptom of anal leakage, an infection, or the result of pain keeping you from cleaning your anus completely.

Keep reading to learn what causes hemorrhoids to smell and how you can treat it.

Hemorrhoids don’t typically have an odor, but there are several reasons why you may notice that your hemorrhoids are giving off a bad smell.

Anal discharge and fecal leakage

Large and inflamed hemorrhoids often seep a mucus discharge that can have a foul smell. Mucus can come out of your anus by accident, especially if you pass gas. You may notice mucus on your toilet paper when cleaning yourself.

Fecal leakage can also be a symptom of hemorrhoids and can contribute to a foul smell. Fecal leakage may occur when hemorrhoids prevent your anus from closing completely.

Difficulty cleaning your anus

Inflamed or painful hemorrhoids can make it more difficult to clean around your anus. Not cleaning your anus completely make contribute to a smell due to traces of feces.

Gangrene and infection

Infected hemorrhoids can develop a pus-filled abscess that often has a foul-smelling odor. Infections most often occur when internal hemorrhoids become prolapsed, meaning they bulge outside your anus, and lose their blood supply. These types of hemorrhoids are known as strangulated internal hemorrhoids.

The National Organization for Rare Disorders says that in rare cases, hemorrhoids can become infected with “flesh-eating” bacteria, fungi, or viruses that cause a rare and potentially life threatening form of gangrene called Fournier’s gangrene.

An old 2013 case report described an 80-year-old man who developed Fournier’s gangrene after receiving a rubber band ligation. Rubber band ligation is one of the most common procedures used to treat hemorrhoids, and serious complications are rare.

Symptoms of Fournier’s gangrene include:

  • high fever
  • rapid heart rate
  • general tiredness
  • moderate to severe pain
  • moderate to severe swelling
  • a strong rank smell
  • redness or discoloration
  • crackling sound when touching the infection
  • brown to purple-black tissue color in the late stages

Fournier’s gangrene isn’t the most likely reason your hemorrhoids are giving off a strong odor. But it’s important to call a doctor as soon as possible if you have any of the symptoms. A research review reported that 20 to 40 percent of the participants died, and the outlook is more severe the longer you delay treatment.

Hemorrhoid odor may vary depending on the root cause. Smells can be difficult to describe, and descriptions are often subjective.

An odor caused by mucus discharge is often described as “fishy.”

An odor caused by an infection is usually caused by the breakdown of tissue by bacteria. The bacteria produce chemicals that can produce a smell sometimes described as “putrid” or “foul.” The smell of gangrene may be described as “rank” or “rotten.”

If the odor is caused by difficulty cleaning your anus completely, you may notice a fecal smell.

Some ways you can reduce hemorrhoid odor include:

  • Have a doctor rule out a possible infection, and if you do have an infection, have it properly treated.
  • Take frequent warm baths to soothe hemorrhoids, especially after bowel movements.
  • Clean your anus regularly and thoroughly.
  • Try using creams with anti-inflammatory ingredients like witch hazel, zinc, panthenol, or aloe to soothe irritation and make cleansing your anus easier.
  • Consider using a bidet to clean your anus if you have one available, to help reduce irritation caused by wiping with toilet paper.
  • If your anus is sore, consider using medicated wipes designed for hemorrhoid relief.

Shop for medicated wipes online.

The most common symptoms of hemorrhoids include:

  • itchiness around your anus
  • irritation or pain around your anus
  • painful bowel movements
  • a lump or swelling near your anus that’s itchy or painful
  • fecal leakage
  • anal mucus
  • seeing blood on your tissue after wiping

Hemorrhoids usually clear up eventually by themselves or with home remedies.

You should call a doctor if you have bleeding or black-colored bowel movements. These can be symptoms of more serious conditions that require proper medical evaluation.

It’s also a good idea to call a doctor if you’re in a significant amount of discomfort, you have symptoms of an infection, or if home remedies haven’t helped treat your hemorrhoids.

Most hemorrhoids can be treated with home remedies like applying anti-inflammatory creams and taking warm baths to soothe symptoms.

If home remedies don’t work, a doctor may recommend a procedure called a rubber band ligation. During this procedure, the doctor ties the base of your hemorrhoid with a rubber band to cut off the circulation.

Another surgical option is a hemorrhoidectomy, where a doctor removes the hemorrhoid with a scalpel. Surgeons can also burn off hemorrhoids with electricity or lasers.

Hemorrhoids are bulging blood vessels in your lower rectum or anus. They typically cause symptoms such as itchiness, bleeding, or pain. Hemorrhoids may also lead to a bad odor if you develop an infection, have anal leakage, or have trouble cleaning around your anus.

Cleaning your anus regularly and using home remedies to reduce pain and inflammation often help combat the odor. But it’s important to call a doctor if you have symptoms of infection or blood in your feces.