Hemorrhoids, also known as piles, are swollen cluster veins that form inside the rectum or anus. These swollen veins cause a blood pool that makes the veins dilate externally around the rectum and anus.
Hemorrhoids can become uncomfortable, painful, and cause rectal bleeding. Everyone is born with hemorrhoids (referring to the veins in that area). However, they only produce awful symptoms when they become swollen.
Types of Hemorrhoids
Four different types of hemorrhoids exist and each depends on where the bulging veins occur.
Internal Hemorrhoids: They are swollen veins formed inside the rectum. Due to their hidden position, they’re difficult to diagnose.
External Hemorrhoids: They are swollen veins that usually appear underneath the surrounding anus. They look like a bulging lump.
Prolapsed Hemorrhoids: This is when both the internal and external hemorrhoids project outside the anus.
Thrombosed Hemorrhoids: This is a blood clot that develops due to the rupture of one of the external hemorrhoidal veins. This blood clot is a lump under the skin beside the anus.
Symptoms of Hemorrhoids
Internal hemorrhoids are usually not painful until they prolapse. Anyone with internal hemorrhoids symptoms might begin to notice blood in their stools, toilet bowl, or toilet paper. These show signs of rectal bleedings.
Common symptoms of hemorrhoids are:
- Rectal bleeding
- Itchy anus
- Bulging lumps around the anus
- Pain or discomfort around the anus, especially when trying to sit
Diagnosis of Hemorrhoids
Symptoms and physical examinations are used to diagnose hemorrhoids. Doctors can also diagnose you by:
Digital Rectal Examination: Wearing a lubricated glove, the doctor will insert a finger into the rectum to see if there are swollen veins.
Anoscopy: This is when your doctor views the lining of the rectum and anus with an anoscope.
Sigmoidoscopy: Doctors use a sigmoidoscope to view the inside of the lower part of the rectum and colon. A sigmoidoscope is a lighted tube with a camera.
Sometimes, your doctor may carry out a colonoscopy to validate the results from other tests or even check for signs of colon cancer. These tests may be uncomfortable but are usually not painful.
How to Treat Hemorrhoids
Sometimes hemorrhoids disappear on their own, while symptoms like bleeding and pain may last a week or longer. You can treat hemorrhoids using home remedies or going to see a doctor.
Examples of at-home treatments would be:
- Drink a large amount of water
- Consume fiber daily through your diet or a supplement
- Take laxatives to soften your stools
- Soak in a warm bath for 10 to 20 minutes daily
- For pain and inflammation, take nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs
- Use flushable moist wipes or toilet paper with lotion when wiping after defecation
- Take over-the-counter medications containing hydrocortisone, lidocaine, or witch hazel
When symptoms get worse or interrupt your daily activities, this is when you need to consult with your doctor. You should also seek help if the symptoms don’t go away after a week of using home treatments. Doctors treat hemorrhoids with:
Infrared Coagulation: This is a non-surgical process that uses infrared light as a heat source to clot vessels supplying blood to the hemorrhoids. In simple terms, it is a probe inserted into the rectum that transmits heat to clear-off hemorrhoids.
Electrocoagulation: This is using an electric current to stop blood flow to hemorrhoids.
Rubber Band Ligation: The doctor uses a rubber band placed around the hemorrhoids to restrict blood supply to the vein.
Hemorrhoidectomy: Doctors sometimes carry out surgery to take out big, external hemorrhoids or prolapsed internal ones.
How to Manage Hemorrhoids
You may not need to see a doctor to manage hemorrhoids. There are a few things you can do at home to ease symptoms:
- Place ice bags around the pile to reduce swelling
- Ingest enough high fiber supplements and food such as fruits, whole grains, and vegetables. Fiber makes the stool softer and eases straining during bowel movements.
- Make use of moist towels or damp wipes after a bowel movement (make sure they don’t contain alcohol or perfumes)
- Soak in a warm bath for 10 to 20 minutes every day
- Use over-the-counter hemorrhoid products (such as suppositories that contain hydrocortisone or topical ointments)
- What are the causes of hemorrhoids? Being overweight, pregnant, and having diarrhea can cause the formation of hemorrhoids. Other widespread causes of hemorrhoids are constipation, age, insufficient fiber intake, tumors, chronic straining during a bowel movement, and certain medical conditions.
- Does everyone have hemorrhoids? We all have hemorrhoids, meaning the clusters of veins that are below the surface of the mucous membranes of the rectum and anus. What we usually refer to as “hemorrhoids” is what happens when these veins bulge out.
- Do men and women suffer from hemorrhoids? Yes! It occurs in both men and women alike, happening most often among people between the ages of 45 and 65.
- I have anal itching; does it mean I have hemorrhoids? Hemorrhoids are not the only ailment with itchy anal symptoms. You might need to consult with your doctor if the itching persists.
Healthier Me Today is intended for informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment, always consult with your healthcare professional. Stay healthy!