Hemorrhoids: Causes, treatments, and prevention

Hemorrhoids, also known as piles, are swollen veins in the lower part of the anus and rectum. When the walls of these vessels are stretched, they become irritated./

Contents of this article:

  • Hemorrhoids causes
  • Symptoms
  • Hemorrhoid prognosis and complications
  • Treatments
  • Preventing hemorrhoids
  • Hemorrhoids types

Fast facts on hemorrhoids

Here are some key points about hemorrhoids. More detail and supporting information is in the main article.

  • sometimes medicines and surgery are needed to treat hemorrhoids
  • the likelihood of developing hemorrhoids increases as a person ages
  • women are more likely to get hemorrhoids while pregnant
  • hemorrhoids occur when the veins surrounding the anus are engorged or dilated (enlarged)

Hemorrhoids causes

When the veins around the anus or in the rectum are dilated (enlarged) or engorged with blood, the patient has 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 45-65. This does not mean, however, that young people and children do not get them.
  • Diarrhea — especially when chronic.
  • Chronic constipation — straining to move stool puts additional pressure on the blood vessels’ walls.
  • Sitting — for long periods (especially on the toilet).
  • Lifting — especially heavy objects repeatedly.
  • Anal intercourse — which can cause hemorrhoids or worsen existing ones.
  • Obesity — often dietary related, such as not following a high-fiber diet.
  • Genetics — some people inherit a tendency to develop hemorrhoids.

Common symptoms of hemorrhoids

Symptoms of hemorrhoids often include:

  • Painless bleeding — the patient may notice bright red on the toilet paper or in the toilet bowl.
  • Itching — or irritation in the anal area.
  • Discomfort — pain or soreness in the anal region.
  • Lumps — protruding from the anal region.
  • Swelling — in the anal region.
  • Feces — may leak out unintentionally.

Symptoms can be unpleasant or alarming but they are usually not a cause for concern.

Hemorrhoids diagnosis

Anyone experiencing the symptoms outlined above should contact a doctor. Bear in mind that other things, including colorectal and anal cancers, can cause rectal bleeding. It might be a mistake to assume that anal bleeding is simply the result of hemorrhoids and, because of this, decide not to see a doctor.

A doctor can carry out a physical examination and perform other tests to determine whether or not hemorrhoids are present. These tests may include a digital rectal exam — a manual inspection by the doctor using a gloved, lubricated finger.

If symptoms include significant amounts of bleeding, dizziness, and a fainting sensation, the individual should seek emergency care immediately.

Hemorrhoid home treatments

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; there are also pads which contain witch hazel, or a topical numbing agent.
  • Ice packs and cold compresses — applying these to the affected area may help with the swelling.
  • Sitz bath using warm water — the sitz bath is placed over the toilet. Some pharmacies sell them. These 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 (Tylenol) may alleviate the pain and discomfort.

Hemorrhoid medicines

Most hemorrhoid medicines are OTC; they include ointments, pads, or suppositories. Such active ingredients as hydrocortisone and witch hazel are known to relieve itching and pain. If these medicines are ineffective after a week of treatment, you should consult with your doctor.

Nonsurgical Treatment Options

The most common type of nonsurgical hemorrhoid removal technique is rubber band ligation. This is an office procedure for internal hemorrhoids, where an elastic band is placed on the base of the hemorrhoid to cut off blood supply. The hemorrhoid will either shrink or fall off.

Another procedure is sclerotherapy, where a solution is injected into an internal hemorrhoid, producing a scar that cuts off blood supply to the hemorrhoid.

Infrared photocoagulation and electrocoagulation are two other options.

Surgical options

Surgery may involve a hemorrhoidectomy (complete removal of the hemorrhoids) or stapling, where a prolapsed hemorrhoid is tacked back into place. These procedures are performed under general anesthesia, and most patients can go home on the same day as the surgery.

Preventing hemorrhoids

Hemorrhoids occur when the blood vessels that line the rectal area become swollen. Increased pressure over an extended period of time causes the swelling. Pregnancy, straining during a bowel movement, being overweight, or standing for long periods of time may contribute to an increase of pressure in the anal canal. Hemorrhoids can cause itching, burning, rectal bleeding and pain. Fortunately, most cases can be resolved with at-home treatments and future hemorrhoids can be prevented with lifestyle changes.

Having soft stools that pass easily is the best way to prevent hemorrhoids and relieve the symptoms of any existing hemorrhoids. To avoid putting pressure on your rectal area and prevent hemorrhoids, you can:

  • Add fiber to your diet. Eating plenty of fruits, vegetables, legumes, and whole grains can prevent constipation and soften your stools. You can also take a fiber supplement if you are having trouble getting enough fiber in your diet.
  • Drink plenty of fluids. Being properly hydrated is especially important if you’re adding fiber to your diet. Water ensures that your stools will be soft and easy to pass. If your urine is dark yellow instead of clear, you need to drink more fluids.
  • Exercise at least two hours each week. Exercise can help you lose weight, which can reduce the pressure on your circulatory system. There are also immediate benefits of increasing your physical activity: exercise improves digestion and helps prevent constipation. Moving around also reduces the buildup of pressure caused by long periods of sitting or standing in the same position.
  • Don’t wait to go to the bathroom. Go as soon as you feel the urge. If you don’t go to the bathroom right away and the urge passes, your stool can harden and will be more difficult to pass when you finally do go to the bathroom. Hard stool usually results in additional pushing and pressure during a bowel movement, which is believed to cause hemorrhoids.
  • Don’t strain; relax and breathe normally. Allow yourself enough time to go to the bathroom. If you feel rushed, you may be more likely to strain and increase the pressure on your rectum.
  • Do not sit for long periods of time on the toilet after you’re done going to the bathroom. Staying in the bathroom to read after you’ve finished having a bowel movement increases the pressure you put on your veins.
  • Avoid prolonged sitting or standing. If your work requires you to sit at a desk or stand behind a counter, try to take short breaks to change positions. Stretch or go for a short walk.

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