Hemorrhoids: Symptoms, Causes and How to Treat Them
What are hemorrhoids?
Hemorrhoids are cushions of blood vessels, connective tissue and muscles located on the anal canal. Hemorrhoids, when working correctly, help to maintain fecal continence and ensure that no liquid escapes through the sphincter at the end of the digestive tract.
Hemorrhoids are normal part of the human anatomy and only a minority of people suffer from enlarged or symptomatic hemorrhoids. In the U.S. approximately 4.4 percent of the population suffer from hemorrhoids.
Symptoms & Causes
Enlarged or swollen hemorrhoids are usually the result of applying too much pressure to the lower rectum. This can be the result of straining when having a bowl movement such as chronic diarrhea or constipation.
In addition, pregnant women are more susceptible to hemorrhoids due to the weight of carrying the baby and from the stress of giving birth. A study conducted in France estimates 25 to 35 percent of pregnant women are affected by hemorrhoids.
People with swollen hemorrhoids don’t always feel pain. They might however experience bleeding, anal swelling and discomfort.
2 Types of Hemorrhoids
Some people might suffer from internal hemorrhoids, these lie inside the rectum, and the most common symptoms include painless rectal bleeding, prolapse or protrusion, pain and irritation.
External Hemorrhoids are located under the skin around the anus. These can enlarge and will result in pain, swelling and in very serious cases, spontaneous rupture which will result in intense pain and bleeding.
How to Diagnosis and Exam
Diagnostic tests are available to not only confirm the presence of swollen hemorrhoids, but also to eliminate other possible digestive disease. Bleeding of the rectum or anus or bloody stools can be a sign of more serious diseases/medical conditions and you should consult your doctors as soon as possible.
Hemorrhoids are usually checked by doing a rectal exam. Internal hemorrhoids are checked by inserting a rubber-gloved finger into the rectum to feel for any protrusion or are examined with an anoscope or endoscope. On occasion accompanying symptoms might suggest other digestive diseases and a more extensive examination using colonoscopy may be required.
There are several other-the-counter remedies, such as stool softeners and anti-inflammatory ointments, which can provide short-term local relief. In addition, padding more fiber and drinking more water to your diet can help avoid straining while going to the bathroom.
In addition, there non-surgical treatment options. Rubber band ligation is the most common treatment for internal hemorrhoids. This involves placing a small rubber band around the base of the hemorrhoid and stopping the flow of the blood to the area until it shrinks and falls off (this treatment is associated with post-treatment pain and complications).
There is also the option of scleortherapy, where the hemorrhoid is injected with chemical in order to shrink it.
Lastly, there is infrared or electrocoagulation which targets the hemorrhoid by burning it and letting it slough off. This method requires more treatments than rubber banding but has been shown to be associated with less pain and fewer complications.
When the hemorrhoids have prolapsed or become very large, surgical removal or stapling might be needed. In addition, doctors may use the Doppler-guided hemorrhoidal artery ligation. This procedure using ultrasound techniques to identify the blood vessels feeding the hemorrhoid and cut them off.
How can you prevent hemorrhoids?
In order to prevent hemorrhoids it is important to try and maintain regular bowel movements and lessen the risk by including more fiber in your diet.
In addition, one should take care to avoid exerting too much pressure during bowel movements and try not to sit on the toilet too long, as this will cause added strain.