Hemorrhoids, also referred to as piles, are swollen and inflamed veins located in the rectum or anus. They can be internal, situated inside the rectum, or external, found under the skin surrounding the anus. Hemorrhoids affect millions of people around the world. And despite their prevalence, many individuals are unaware of the causes, symptoms, and effective treatment options for hemorrhoids. They usually occur when the veins in the rectum and anal region become stretched and irritated due to increased pressure, leading to a variety of uncomfortable symptoms.
Common causes/risk factors of hemorrhoids include:
- Straining during bowel movements: This can occur due to constipation, diarrhea, or the need to push excessively while passing stools. That is why it is recommended to move bowel when the urge is first felt, as any form of delay could increase the chance of having to strain when passing stools, eventually.
- Pregnancy: The increased pressure on the pelvic region during pregnancy can cause hemorrhoids to develop or worsen.
- Obesity: Being overweight can contribute to increased pressure on the rectal veins.
- Sitting for extended periods: Prolonged sitting can put pressure on the anal area and contribute to the development of hemorrhoids.
- Aging: The tissues supporting the veins in the rectum and anus may weaken as a person gets older, making hemorrhoids more likely.
- Dietary Choices: Low-fiber diets can lead to constipation, which in turn contributes to straining during bowel movements.
- Anal intercourse: Engaging in anal sex can increase the risk of developing hemorrhoids.
Recognizing the Symptoms
Hemorrhoid symptoms can vary in severity and presentation. Common symptoms include:
- Itching and Discomfort: Hemorrhoids can cause persistent itching and a feeling of discomfort in the anal area.
- Bleeding: Bright red blood on toilet paper or in the toilet bowl after a bowel movement is a common sign of hemorrhoids.
- Pain or Sensitivity: External hemorrhoids may cause pain or sensitivity, especially during bowel movements or when sitting.
- Protrusion: In some cases, internal hemorrhoids can protrude from the anus, causing a lump that may need to be pushed back in manually.
Treatment and management options for hemorrhoids include:
- Lifestyle changes: Eating a high-fiber diet, drinking plenty of water, and avoiding excessive straining during bowel movements can help prevent and alleviate hemorrhoid symptoms.
- Topical treatments: Over-the-counter creams, ointments, and suppositories containing ingredients like hydrocortisone can provide temporary relief from itching and discomfort.
- Warm baths: Soaking in a warm bath (sitz bath) for 10-15 minutes a few times a day can help reduce swelling and alleviate symptoms.
- Medications: Doctors may prescribe medications to relieve pain, reduce inflammation, and improve blood flow to the affected area.
- Minimally invasive procedures: In cases of persistent or severe hemorrhoids, medical procedures like rubber band ligation, sclerotherapy, or infrared coagulation may be recommended to shrink or remove the hemorrhoids.
- Surgery: In rare cases, surgery may be required to remove or treat large or persistently painful hemorrhoids.
Prevention and Self-Care
Preventing hemorrhoids involves adopting healthy habits, including:
- Maintaining a high-fiber diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.
- Staying hydrated to soften stools and prevent constipation.
- Engaging in regular physical activity to improve blood circulation and digestion.
- Avoiding prolonged sitting and using cushioned seats when possible.
- Practicing proper hygiene and using moist wipes or gentle cleansers to avoid irritation.
It’s important to consult a healthcare professional if you suspect you have hemorrhoids or if you’re experiencing persistent symptoms. They can provide a proper diagnosis and recommend the most appropriate treatment options based on your individual situation, in order to provide relief and improve quality of life. Don’t go through this alone, reach out to a doctor via Telemedicine to get all the help you need.