What are external hemorrhoids?
Hemorrhoids occur when the veins of the
rectum or anus become dilated or enlarged.
Depending on where your hemorrhoids are located, they are considered
“internal” or “external.” External hemorrhoids are usually found beneath the
skin that surrounds the anus.
Recognizing the symptoms of external hemorrhoids
There is a range of symptoms that can affect
a person with hemorrhoids. Symptoms tend to vary depending on the severity of
your hemorrhoids. Some of the symptoms that you may have include the following:
- itching around the anus or rectal area
- pain around the anus
- lumps near or around the anus
- blood in the stool
You may notice bleeding when using the
bathroom. This includes seeing blood on toilet paper or in the toilet. Lumps
around the anus may feel as if they are swollen.
These symptoms may also occur because of
other conditions. But if you experience these symptoms, you should schedule an
exam with your doctor.
What are the causes of external hemorrhoids?
The most common cause of hemmorhoids is repeated straining while having a
bowel movement. This is often caused by severe cases of constipation or diarrhea. Straining gets in the way of blood flow into and out of the
area. This results in the pooling of blood and enlargement of the vessels in
Pregnant women may also be at an increased risk of hemorrhoids because of the pressure that the uterus
places on these veins.
Who is at risk for external hemorrhoids?
If your parents have had
hemorrhoids, you may be more likely to have them as well. Hemorrhoids may also
be caused by pregnancy.
As we age, hemorrhoids can
occur due to increased pressure caused by sitting a lot. And anything that
causes you to strain during bowel movements can lead to external hemorrhoids.
If you’re not sure what
the cause of your hemorrhoids may be, your doctor might be able to determine why.
How are external hemorrhoids diagnosed?
Because many of the symptoms of external
hemorrhoids can also be caused by other conditions, it is necessary to have an
in-depth exam. Your doctor may use a series of tests to confirm the presence of
external hemorrhoids near the anus. These tests may include:
- digital rectum exam
Your doctor may begin with a physical exam.
In cases of external hemorrhoids, they may be able to see the hemorrhoids.
If your doctor suspects that you have
internal hemorrhoids instead of external hemorrhoids, they may use an anoscopy
to examine the inside of the anus. Internal hemorrhoids can also be seen with
colonoscopy, sigmoidoscopy, or proctoscopy.
Treating external hemorrhoids
Hemorrhoids can be treated a few ways
depending on severity. Your doctor may ask if you have any preference for
certain types of medications or treatments.
Some general treatments that your doctor
might suggest include ice packs to reduce swelling, suppositories, or
These options can offer relief to individuals
who have a milder case of hemorrhoids. If you have a more severe case, your
doctor may suggest treatment with a surgical procedure.
Surgical treatments include:
- removal of hemorrhoids, known as hemorrhoidectomy
- burning of hemorrhoid tissue with infrared photo, laser, or
- sclerotherapy or rubber band ligation to reduce the hemorrhoids
can I prevent external hemorrhoids from developing?
The main factor for
preventing external hemorrhoids is to avoid straining during bowel movements.
If you have severe constipation, you may want to try using aids such as
laxatives or including more fiber in your diet.
Stool softeners are
another popular over-the-counter option that can help you with temporary
constipation due to pregnancy or other factors. If these options don’t help,
you may want to talk with your doctor about other options to reduce strain.
What is the long-term outlook for external hemorrhoids?
Hemorrhoids are a fairly
common condition. Many people recover with proper treatment. In severe cases of
external hemorrhoids, surgical methods may be necessary for treatment. People
who have severe external hemorrhoids may only notice a reduction as a result of
these types of treatment.