What is Haemorrhoids?
Hemorrhoids, also called piles, are vascular structures in the anal canal. In their normal state, they are cushions that help with stool control. They become a disease when swollen or inflamed; the unqualified term “hemorrhoid” is often used to refer to the disease.
The signs and symptoms of hemorrhoids depend on the type present. Internal hemorrhoids often result in painless, bright red rectal bleeding when defecating. External hemorrhoids often result in pain and swelling in the area of the anus. If bleeding occurs it is usually darker.
Symptoms frequently get better after a few days. A skin tag may remain after the healing of external hemorrhoids. While the exact cause of hemorrhoids remains unknown, a number of factors that increase pressure in the abdomen are believed to be involved.
This may include constipation, diarrhea and sitting on the toilet for a long time. Hemorrhoids are also more common during pregnancy. The diagnosis is made by looking at the area. Many people incorrectly refer to any symptom occurring around the anal area as “hemorrhoids” and serious causes of the symptoms should be ruled out.
Colonoscopy or sigmoidoscopy is reasonable to confirm the diagnosis and rule out more serious causes. Often, no specific treatment is needed. Initial measures consist of increasing fiber intake, drinking fluids to maintain hydration, NSAIDs to help with pain, and rest.
Medicated creams may be applied to the area, but their effectiveness is poorly supported by evidence. A number of minor procedures may be performed if symptoms are severe or do not improve with conservative management. Surgery is reserved for those who fail to improve following these measures.
Types of Haemorrhoids?
Hemorrhoids can be either internal or external.
Internal hemorrhoids are deep inside the rectum and not visible from outside. They are normally painless. Often, the first sign that internal hemorrhoids are present is rectal bleeding.
Straining can sometimes push internal hemorrhoid so that it protrudes through the anus. This is called a protruding or prolapsed hemorrhoid and can be painful.
External hemorrhoids are under the skin around the anus and are therefore visible. Because there are more sensitive nerves in this part of the body, they are normally more painful. Straining when passing a stool may cause them to bleed.
What are the Symptoms of Haemorrhoids?
Signs and symptoms of hemorrhoids usually depend on the type of hemorrhoid.
These are under the skin around your anus. Signs and symptoms might include:
- Itching or irritation in your anal region
- Pain or discomfort
- Swelling around your anus
Internal hemorrhoids lie inside the rectum. You usually can’t see or feel them, and they rarely cause discomfort. But straining or irritation when passing stool can cause:
- Painless bleeding during bowel movements. You might notice small amounts of bright red blood on your toilet tissue or in the toilet.
- Hemorrhoid to push through the anal opening (prolapsed or protruding hemorrhoid), resulting in pain and irritation.
If blood pools in external hemorrhoid and forms a clot (thrombus), it can result in:
- Severe pain
- A hard lump near your anus
What Causes Haemorrhoids (piles)?
Enlargement of the veins around the anus causes hemorrhoids.
They can occur for the following reasons:
- Pregnancy: They occur more commonly in pregnant women because, as the uterus enlarges, it presses on the vein in the colon, causing it to bulge.
- Aging: Hemorrhoids are most common among adults aged 45 to 65 years. This does not mean, however, that young people and children do not get them.
- Diarrhea: Hemorrhoids can occur after cases of chronic diarrhea.
- Chronic constipation: Straining to move stool puts additional pressure on the walls of the blood vessels.
- Sitting for too long: Staying in a seated position for long periods of time can cause hemorrhoids, especially on the toilet.
- Heavy lifting: Repeatedly lifting heavy objects can lead to hemorrhoids.
- Anal intercourse: This can cause new hemorrhoids or worsen existing ones.
- Obesity: Diet-related obesity can cause hemorrhoids.
- Genetics: Some people inherit a tendency to develop hemorrhoids.
Who is most likely to get them?
Many people think constipation is the main reason for hemorrhoids. Constipation means hard stools and more straining on the toilet, which can weaken the supportive tissue in the anal canal and push the hemorrhoids downwards.
Constipation does contribute to the risk of getting hemorrhoids, although one study looking at veterans in the US found diarrhea, rather than constipation, was associated with hemorrhoids. This could also be due to straining and prolonged sitting in the bathroom.
Other factors such as sex and ethnicity affect risk. One US study found they were more common among those aged between 45-65 and reduced after the age of 65. Caucasians were found to be affected more frequently than African-Americans.
People on higher incomes are also more likely to suffer from hemorrhoids. A suggestion for why this might be the case comes from a study where a majority of patients with hemorrhoids were noted to be in occupations that involve prolonged sitting rather than manual labor.
Hemorrhoids often occur during pregnancy and are most common in the second and third trimesters. It’s thought hormonal changes, pressure from the growing uterus, alterations in blood flow and constipation contribute to their development.
For the majority of women, hemorrhoids and their symptoms will gradually resolve after giving birth.
How do you know you have them?
We classify problematic internal hemorrhoids as fitting into four grades. Grade one hemorrhoids have no prolapse (which refers to them protruding out of the anus) and are usually painless. Bleeding may be the only symptom.
Grade two are more uncomfortable and do prolapse. But this resolves on its own. Grade three is more severe, with a prolapse that will not resolve on its own but can be manually pushed back inside.
Grade four hemorrhoids have prolapsed and cannot be pushed back manually. They are usually the most painful type.
Hemorrhoids can often be confused with anal skin tags, which are benign growths of excess skin around the anal canal.
How do you avoid them?
Diet and lifestyle play an important role in preventing and managing hemorrhoids. Fiber can be beneficial, mainly due to reducing constipation and straining. Combined data of seven clinical trials on hemorrhoids has shown supplementary fiber relieves symptoms and reduces the risk of bleeding by around 50%.
General advice to increase oral fluid consumption, adopt regular exercise, minimize straining and the use of constipation-inducing medications (such as opioids) are sensible measures, even though there is little evidence in the medical literature to support them.
Treatments of Haemorrhoids
In the majority of cases, simple measures will alleviate symptoms while hemorrhoids get better without treatment. However, medicines and even surgery may sometimes be needed.
Symptoms can be relieved in the following ways. However, they will not eliminate the hemorrhoids:
- Topical creams and ointments: Over the counter (OTC) creams or suppositories, which contain hydrocortisone, are available to buy online. There are also pads that contain witch hazel, or a numbing agent that can be applied to the skin.
- Ice packs and cold compresses: Applying these to the affected area may help with the swelling.
- A sitz bath using warm water: A sitz bath is placed over the toilet. Some pharmacies sell them, and they may relieve the burning or itching symptoms.
- Moist towelettes: Dry toilet paper may aggravate the problem.
- Analgesics: Some painkillers, such as aspirin, ibuprofen, and acetaminophen may alleviate the pain and discomfort.
Most hemorrhoid medicines are OTC. These include ointments, pads, or suppositories.
Active ingredients as hydrocortisone and witch hazel are known to relieve itching and pain. Consult with a doctor if these medicines do not show results after a week of treatment.
Nonsurgical treatment options
The most common type of nonsurgical hemorrhoid removal technique is rubber band ligation.
This is an outpatient procedure for internal hemorrhoids, where an elastic band is placed on the base of hemorrhoids to cut off the blood supply. Hemorrhoid will either shrink or fall off.
Another procedure is sclerotherapy, where a solution is injected into internal hemorrhoids. This produces a scar that cuts off blood supply to hemorrhoids.
Infrared photocoagulation and electrocoagulation are two other options.
Surgery may involve complete removal of the hemorrhoids, known as a hemorrhoidectomy.
It may also involve stapling, where a prolapsed hemorrhoid is tacked back into place. These procedures are performed under general anesthesia, and most people can go home on the same day as the surgery.
Risk factors of Haemorrhoids
As you age, your risk of hemorrhoids increases. That’s because the tissues that support the veins in your rectum and anus can weaken and stretch. This can also happen when you’re pregnant because the baby’s weight puts pressure on the anal region.
Complications of Haemorrhoids
Complications of hemorrhoids are rare but include:
- Anemia. Rarely, chronic blood loss from hemorrhoids may cause anemia, in which you don’t have enough healthy red blood cells to carry oxygen to your cells.
- Strangulated hemorrhoid. If the blood supply to an internal hemorrhoid is cut off, hemorrhoids may be “strangulated,” which can cause extreme pain.
- Blood clot. Occasionally, a clot can form in hemorrhoid (thrombosed hemorrhoid). Although not dangerous, it can be extremely painful and sometimes needs to be lanced and drained.
Prevention of Haemorrhoids
The best way to prevent hemorrhoids is to keep your stools soft, so they pass easily. To prevent hemorrhoids and reduce symptoms of hemorrhoids, follow these tips:
- Eat high-fiber foods. Eat more fruits, vegetables and whole grains. Doing so softens the stool and increases its bulk, which will help you avoid the straining that can cause hemorrhoids. Add fiber to your diet slowly to avoid problems with gas.
- Drink plenty of fluids. Drink six to eight glasses of water and other liquids (not alcohol) each day to help keep stools soft.
- Consider fiber supplements. Most people don’t get enough of the recommended amount of fiber — 20 to 30 grams a day — in their diet. Studies have shown that over-the-counter fiber supplements, such as psyllium (Metamucil) or methylcellulose (Citrucel), improve overall symptoms and bleeding from hemorrhoids.If you use fiber supplements, be sure to drink at least eight glasses of water or other fluids every day. Otherwise, the supplements can cause or worsen constipation.
- Don’t strain. Straining and holding your breath when trying to pass a stool creates greater pressure in the veins in the lower rectum.
- Go as soon as you feel the urge. If you wait to pass a bowel movement and the urge goes away, your stool could dry out and be harder to pass.
- Exercise. Stay active to help prevent constipation and to reduce pressure on veins, which can occur with long periods of standing or sitting. Exercise can also help you lose excess weight that might be contributing to your hemorrhoids.
- Avoid long periods of sitting. Sitting too long, particularly on the toilet, can increase the pressure on the veins in the anus.
Outlook of Haemorrhoids
Hemorrhoids are often treated successfully and without complications, especially if treatment starts early. However, the following rare complications can arise:
- Strangulated hemorrhoid: If the blood supply to the hemorrhoid is cut off, it may become strangulated. This can cause significant pain.
- Anemia: Significant, chronic blood loss from hemorrhoids can lead to anemia. This occurs when there are not enough red blood cells in a person’s circulation.
- Blood clots: Sometimes, blood may clot in the anus, which can be painful. The area will swell and become inflamed.
Frequently Asked Questions About Haemorrhoids
Everyone has hemorrhoids. True or False?
True. In a technical sense, we all have hemorrhoids, which simply refers to pillow-like clusters of veins located just below the surface of the mucous membranes of the anus and rectum. What we commonly call hemorrhoids (also called piles) is what occurs when these veins become swollen, like varicose veins.
Men and women suffer from hemorrhoids at about the same rate. True or False?
True. Hemorrhoids occur in both men at women at the same rate, and they occur most often in adults between 45 and 65 years of age. Though many people have hemorrhoids, only about 4% of the population has problems due to enlarged hemorrhoids.
What are the symptoms of hemorrhoids?
True. Other symptoms of hemorrhoids can include:
- Rectal bleeding (bright red blood on toilet tissue, stool, or in the toilet bowl)
- Anal ache, pain, or discomfort, particularly while seated
- Painful bowel movements
- Hard, painful lumps near the anus
What is thrombosis?
Thrombosis is the medical term for blood clots. When a blood clot forms in hemorrhoids, this can cause a purple or blue lump that may bleed, and cause pain and itching. Once the clot dissolves and heals, there may be some tissue that remains (skin tag) that can become irritated.
What causes hemorrhoids?
Pregnancy, being overweight, and diarrhea can all contribute to the formation of hemorrhoids. Other causes of hemorrhoids include inadequate fiber intake, constipation, chronic straining when having bowel movements, prolonged sitting (especially on the toilet), tumors, age, and certain medical conditions.
What is hemorrhoid?
The definition of hemorrhoids is swollen veins in the anal region. External hemorrhoids look like lumps near the anus. If the hemorrhoid is thrombosed (there is a blood clot), it may appear dark blue to purple in color.
What are the treatments for hemorrhoids?
There are a number of treatments available for hemorrhoids. Many people treat hemorrhoids effectively with over-the-counter products such as Preparation H. There are also non-surgical procedures that can cure hemorrhoids, including: there, are a number of treatments available for hemorrhoids.
Many people treat hemorrhoids effectively with over-the-counter products such as Preparation H. There are also non- surgical procedures that can cure hemorrhoids, including:
- Sclerotherapy: liquid is injected into enlarged hemorrhoid with the goal of reducing the blood supply to shrink it
- Cryotherapy: This procedure freezes hemorrhoid, causing it to shrink and heal
- Rubber band ligation: a band is applied to the base of hemorrhoid, cutting off the blood supply, causing hemorrhoid to shrink and fall off
- Heat coagulation: heat from infrared light causes scar tissue which results in hemorrhoid dying
What is the newest surgical technique for treating hemorrhoids?
Stapled hemorrhoidectomy is the newest surgical technique to treat hemorrhoids. It does not remove the hemorrhoids themselves; rather, it removes the lax tissue surrounding hemorrhoid that has allowed it to protrude.
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