Hemorrhoids are swollen veins around the anus that have been stretched because of pressure, similar to the varicose veins that exist in the legs. A set of these veins exist inside the rectum (internal) and under the skin around the anus (external). They are also known as “piles” and do not cause pain or bleeding. They are typically stretched by increased pressure from straining to move bowels, sitting too long on the toilet, or from factors such as liver disease, pregnancy, or obesity.
What are the symptoms of hemorrhoids?
The only sign that you may notice from internal hemorrhoids is bright red blood on your toilet paper or in the toilet bowl. However, when these veins stretch — in extreme cases — they can fall down (prolapse) through the anus and be excreted, causing irritation and pain. The set of veins that are around the anus can cause problems if blood clots form in them and they grow to be very large and painful. These are known as thromboses external hemorrhoids. These present themselves as tender lumps on the edge of the anus, and bleed when the swollen veins are broken by straining or rubbing. People with external hemorrhoids may feel itching around their anus as well; the itching may be caused by draining mucus and irritation caused by too much rubbing or cleaning of the anus. In turn, it can also be caused by inadequate anus hygiene.
How Common Are Problems with Hemorrhoids?
These problems are very common in both men and women. Half of people typically have hemorrhoids by the age of 50. Some people have bleeding from hemorrhoids, but most often the bleeding is not serious. Pregnant women are susceptible since the pressure of the fetus in the abdomen combined with hormonal changes can cause hemorrhoidal veins to enlarge.
If you see bleeding from your anus or notice blood in your stool, contact your doctor.
What is the treatment for hemorrhoids?
To reduce symptoms, often all that is needed is to include more fiber in your diet to soften stool. Eating more fruits, leafy vegetables, and whole grain breads and cereals are ways to help. Also, drinking at least six to eight glasses of fluids can help flush out impurities and keep bowel movements smooth. Good hygiene is also extremely important. Bathe the anus gently after a bowel movement with soft, moist toilet paper. Avoid rough wiping and after bathing dry the anus with a soft clot or towel. Your doctor may even recommend an ice bath, ice packs or warm soaks (sitz baths). If your hemorrhoids require more intense attention by a surgeon, there are a number of procedures that may be used to reduce or remove them besides surgery with a scalpel.
How to prevent hemorrhoids
The best way to prevent these is to pass your bowel movements as soon as you feel the urge to do so. Don’t sit on the toilet for too long because this is the only time that the anus relaxes and this allows the veins to fill with blood. Be active to help avoid constipation and add more fiber to your diet.