There are a few illnesses that are not that well-known by people, some of which are quite serious. There is one condition in particular which causes irritation and discomfort to anyone who has it – hemorrhoids. This condition, characterized by a swollen vein in the lowermost part of the anus and the rectum, occurs when the walls of the vessels are stretched until they become irritated. Even though this condition is unpleasant and quite painful, it is fairly easy to treat or even prevent in the first place. The treatment chosen actually depends on your doctors, but because the condition can worsen over time, it is vital that it is treated as soon as possible.
What Are Hemorrhoids?
Hemorrhoids are clumps of enlarged or dilated blood vessels located in the anus and lower part of the rectum. As we know, the rectum is area of the large intestine before it turns into the anus, which is the end of the digestive system where feces passes to leave the body.
Hemorrhoids can get enlarged when the veins get larger and the walls become more stretched, irritated and thinner because of passing stool. Hemorrhoids are divided into two categories:
- External: the ones that originate from the anus, and
- Internal: the ones that originate from the rectum.
Piles, or hemorrhoids, are historically known to cause irritation and pain. The term hemorrhoid actually comes from the Greek word, “haimorrhoides,” which means that the veins are discharging blood.
If you have already experienced hemorrhoid pain, trust me, you are not alone. It is estimated that 3 out of 4 people will experience this condition at some point in their own lives. In fact, even Napoleon experienced the condition! It distracted him with severe pain when he was defeated at Waterloo.
Causes of Hemorrhoids
Hemorrhoids are usually caused by an increase in pressure in the lowermost part of the rectum. This can be because of:
- Poor posture
- Spinal cord injury
- Low fiber diet
- Anal intercourse
- Heavy lifting
- Long lasting constipation or diarrhea
- Sitting for a long period of time, most specifically on the toilet
- Straining during bowel movements
While hemorrhoids are very common and will probably affect most people at some point in their lives, they tend to occur later in life, most likely due to age-related weakening and stretching of the tissues that support rectal veins.
Signs and Symptoms of Hemorrhoids
The signs and symptoms of hemorrhoids may include:
- The appearance of one or more lumps near the anus that might become painful and tender
- Swelling around the anus
- The appearance of bright red blood in your stool, toilet bowl or toilet paper.
- Itching and irritation around the anal region
- Sudden pain during the bowel movements
- Pain or discomfort when sitting
Bleeding during bowel movements is actually the most common sign of hemorrhoids. However, rectal bleeding may also indicate a more serious condition, such as anal cancer or bowel cancer, so it’s very important to consults with your doctor if you notice any of the following:
- Blood in the stool
- Blood clots
- Passing maroon or black-colored stool
- An obvious change in the bowel habits (coupled with hemorrhoid symptoms)
- Unresponsive to self-treatment
- Frequent bleeding
Treatments for Hemorrhoids
Most cases of hemorrhoids can be treated by yourself. Professional treatment for hemorrhoids is needed when more serious or frequent bleeding happens.
There are various home treatments for hemorrhoids that can ease the condition. These include the following:
- Taking oral pain medications, such as paracetamol. This may help relieve the discomfort
- Applying ice packs to the area to relieve any swelling.
- Using moist towelettes instead of dry toilet paper to keep the anal area clean after passing stool.
- Ensuring the anal area is clean.
- Using stool softeners to keep the stool more passable in the anus.
- Soaking the anal area in warm water for about 10 to 15 minutes 2 to 3 times every day.
- Using hemorrhoid ointments, pads or suppositories
Surgical and Non-Surgical Treatments for Hemorrhoids
For external hemorrhoids, wherein a clot has formed, your doctor will most likely perform a simple incision to remove the clot.
For persistent bleeding, there are some procedures which may help, including:
- Hemorrhoid stapling
- Laser or infrared coagulation
- Sclerotherapy or injection
- Rubber band ligation
With proper attention, care and medication, hemorrhoids can be treated and disappear.