Hemorrhoids are experienced by at least 50% of the population at some point in their lives with the peak incidence being between the ages of 45-65 years. Development of this condition before the age of 20 is quite unusual although factors such as pregnancy, genetics and gender are often associated with an increased risk of the malady.
To this end, neither portal hypertension nor chronic constipation has been convincingly linked to the occurrence of hemorrhoids. In some cases, hemorrhoids are spotted among patients with spinal cord injury.
What are hemorrhoids? (Overview)
The area around the anus and rectum is mainly occupied by a submucosal layer which creates a natural “cushion” on the right anterior, left lateral and right posterior positions of the anus. This layer is mainly made up of muscle fibers and blood vessels.
With time and aging, the submucosal layer fiber may begin to deteriorate or weaken leading to the distal displacement of the “cushion” causing erosion, bleeding, and venous distention. The consequent swelling of surrounding blood vessels is what leads to the development of hemorrhoids.
There are two types of hemorrhoids namely internal hemorrhoids and external hemorrhoids. Internal hemorrhoids develop in the lower rectum and do not protrude through the anus. External hemorrhoids, on the other hand, are located under the skin around the anus and may protrude through the anus.
Habitual straining due to constipation (also known as chronic constipation), diarrhea, pregnancy and prolonged sitting are four of the most common causes of hemorrhoids. There is also sufficient evidence that obesity, anal intercourse, rectal infection and liver cirrhosis can also be responsible for the development of piles. In some cases, hemorrhoid symptoms may come about as a result of colon cancer or related digestive system disorders.
Spinal cord injury and low fiber diet that causes a person to strain when having a bowel movement may also worsen the swelling and cause the affected vessels to engorge with blood.
All these conditions lead to significant increase in pressure within hemorrhoidal veins causing them to erode, bleed and swell at the same time.
Click for more: What Causes Hemorrhoids
Painless bleeding is the most common symptom of hemorrhoids. One may spot bright red blood on the outside of the stool or toilet paper. Even though the bleeding is usually self-limiting, one should make a prompt visit to a healthcare profession to clarify if there are other reasons for bleeding including tumors, bowel disease and infection.
As the condition worsens, one may begin to experience pain, discomfort and itching. Blood clots may begin to form in the case of external hemorrhoids causing a hard lump around the anus. Once the blood clot is removed, an extra skin is normally left behind – and this can become irritated or itchy.
If you are wondering “What are hemorrhoids?” note that severe cases of hemorrhoids are normally characterized by dizziness, faintness or lightheadedness.
Read more: Hemorrhoid Symptoms
Internal hemorrhoids, as their name suggests, are located inside the lining of the rectum and cannot be felt unless they are enlarged. In most cases, they are painless only making their presence felt by causing bleeding and difficulties in bowel movement. Sometimes internal hemorrhoids protrude (or prolapsed) outside the anus – and you may be able to feel them as moist pads of the skin that are relatively pinker than surrounding tissues. Prolapsed internal hemorrhoids are quite painful particularly because they are dense with pain-sensing nerves.
Common symptoms of internal hemorrhoids include:
- Having a sensitive, painful lump near the anus
- Frequent discharge of mucus from the anus
- Itchiness around the anus
- General anal swelling
- Leakage of feces
- Rectal fullness
- Rectal pain
Internal hemorrhoids may also cause a constant need to have a bowel movement otherwise known as tenesmus.
Although women often suffer from internal hemorrhoids, men are said to be at a greater risk of it. The best way to avoid this problem is by living a healthy, balanced and less straining lifestyle.
Click for more: Internal Hemorrhoids
Located just underneath the lower posterior part of the anus, external hemorrhoids are visible when they swell and may cause bleeding, pain and itching, especially with a bowel movement. In most cases, blood clots form within the affected area, and this can later cause a painful condition commonly referred to as thrombosis.
When an external hemorrhoid is “thrombosed”, it turns purplish or bluish (looking rather frightening) and possibly bleeding. Aside from bleeding and swelling the following are some symptoms you should be aware of:
- Itchiness around the anus as the swollen vessels seep mucus
- Lower back pain
- General discomfort because of the swollen and enlarged veins that can become quite sensitive and painful even when there is no bowel movement
- Small lumps hanging outside the anus (these may be pushed back inside)
Read more: External Hemorrhoids
Hemorrhoids go away by themselves most of the time. However, there may be need to deal with the root cause of the problem or at least reduce the discomfort.
Making simple lifestyle changes such as switching to a fiber-rich diet and drinking adequate water can reduce the itching and irritation. Eating foods like cereals, wholegrain bread and vegetables can help you keep your stool soft and regular to prevent constipation which may cause strain when passing stool.
When going to the toilet, one should avoid straining when passing stools as this may only serve to worsen the swellings. After passing the stool, one should wipe the bottom with a moist tissue paper or baby wipes. It is much better to pat the affected area than rub it.
Other well-known home treatments for this condition include:
- Wearing cotton underwear
- Application of essential oil
- Application of herbal tea
- Sitting in a tub full of warm water
- Application of ointments
- Application of ice packs to relieve the pain by causing numbness
Advanced Treatment Options
Though healing hemorrhoids through natural options is possible, in some cases advanced treatment may be sought to bring a long-term solution to the problem. One example of advanced treatment for hemorrhoids is banding which involves placing a tight elastic band around the base of the hemorrhoids. An alternative to banding is sclerotherapy which involves injection of a chemical solution into the affected blood vessels. Infrared coagulation is yet another effective method for reducing hemorrhoid by using a special device that emits infrared light to burns the affected tissue cutting off their blood supply.
Surgical treatment may be used as a “method of last resort.”