What Are Hemorrhoids?
Hemorrhoids are swollen veins located around the anus or in the
lower rectum. The Mayo
Clinic reports that about half of adults have experienced the symptoms of
hemorrhoids by the age of 50.
Hemorrhoids can either be internal or external. Internal
hemorrhoids develop within the anus or rectum. External hemorrhoids develop
outside of the anus. Hemorrhoids are also known as piles.
Of the two forms of hemorrhoids, external hemorrhoids are the
most common and the most troublesome. Hemorrhoids cause pain, severe itching,
and difficulty sitting. The good news is that they’re treatable.
What Are the Symptoms of Hemorrhoids?
The symptoms of hemorrhoids include:
- extreme itching around the anus
- irritation and pain around the anus
- an itchy or painful lump or swelling near your
- fecal leakage
- a painful bowel movement
- blood on your tissue after having a bowel
Although hemorrhoids are painful, they aren’t life-threatening
and often go away on their own without treatment. If you have them often, you
may develop symptoms of anemia such as weakness and pale skin due to blood
loss, though this is rare.
What Causes Hemorrhoids?
Experts aren’t sure what causes hemorrhoids to develop. Several
factors could be to blame, including:
- straining during a bowel movement
- complications from chronic constipation
- sitting on the toilet for a long time
- a family history of hemorrhoids
You’re also more likely to develop hemorrhoids if you’re
pregnant. When the uterus enlarges, it presses on the vein in the colon causing
it to bulge.
How Are Hemorrhoids Diagnosed?
A visual examination of your anus may be enough to diagnose
hemorrhoids. To confirm the diagnosis, your doctor may wish to do a different
examination to check for any abnormalities within the anus. This check is known as a digital
rectal exam. During this exam, your doctor inserts a gloved and lubricated
finger into your rectum. If they feel anything abnormal, they may order an
additional test called a sigmoidoscopy.
A sigmoidoscopy involves your doctor using a small
camera to diagnose an internal hemorrhoid. This small fiber-optic camera, called
a sigmoidoscope, fits into a small tube and then inserts into your rectum. From
this test, your doctor gets a clear view of the inside of your rectum so that
they can examine the hemorrhoid up close.
What Are the Treatment Options for
Treatment for hemorrhoids can occur at home or at a doctor’s
To minimize pain, soak in a warm tub of water for at least 10
minutes every day. You can also sit on a warm water bottle to relieve the pain
of external hemorrhoids. If the pain is too much to bear, you can use an
over-the-counter medicated suppository, ointment, or cream to relieve the
burning and itching.
Home treatment can also include increasing your dietary
fiber intake. Consuming foods that are high in dietary fiber can minimize
the risk of developing hemorrhoids in the future.
Good dietary fiber sources include:
- whole wheat
- brown rice
Dietary fiber helps create bulk in the intestines, which softens
the stool, making it easier to pass.
If you’re constipated, you can also use an
over-the-counter fiber supplement to help soften your stool.
If home treatments aren’t helping your case of hemorrhoids, your
doctor might recommend getting a rubber band ligation. This procedure
involves the doctor cutting off the circulation of the hemorrhoid by placing a
rubber band around it. This causes loss of circulation to the hemorrhoid, forcing
it to shrink. You shouldn’t try this at home, however.
If rubber band ligation isn’t an option in your case, your doctor
can inject a chemical into the blood vessel directly. This causes the
hemorrhoid to reduce in size. This treatment is known as injection therapy
What Are the Complications Associated with
Complications from hemorrhoids are rare but may include:
- blood clots in the swollen vein
- iron deficiency anemia caused by blood loss
What Is the Long-Term Outlook?
With proper treatment, most people experience an improvement.
Following your doctor’s directions and maintaining a regimen that reduces the
symptoms of hemorrhoids can also improve your outlook.
To help prevent or avoid exacerbating hemorrhoids, you should avoid
straining during a bowel movement. Also, increase your water intake. Drinking
adequate water can keep your stool from hardening.