Hemorrhoids, also known as piles, are swollen and inflamed veins in the rectum and anus. They can cause discomfort, pain, itching, and bleeding, making it important to address them promptly. While some cases of hemorrhoids can be managed at home, severe or recurring hemorrhoids may require medical intervention.
Hemorrhoids can be internal or external, and they are caused by increased pressure on the veins in the rectum and anus. Common contributing factors include straining during bowel movements, chronic constipation or diarrhea, obesity, pregnancy, and prolonged sitting.
Causes of Hemorrhoids
Veins in the rectum and anus that are enlarged and irritated called hemorrhoids. They can happen externally, under the skin surrounding the anus, or internally, inside the rectum. Hemorrhoids can be caused by increased pressure on the veins in the rectal area, leading to their enlargement and swelling.
Common causes of hemorrhoids include:
Straining during bowel movements: Putting excessive pressure on the rectal area while passing stools can strain the veins and lead to hemorrhoid formation.
Chronic constipation or diarrhea: Both conditions can contribute to the development of hemorrhoids. Straining during constipation and frequent bowel movements with diarrhea can irritate and enlarge the veins.
Obesity: Being overweight or obese can increase the pressure on the rectal veins, making them more susceptible to swelling and inflammation.
Pregnancy: The growing uterus during pregnancy exerts pressure on the pelvic veins, including those in the rectal area, leading to the development of hemorrhoids.
Prolonged sitting or standing: Remaining in a seated or standing position for long periods without movement can hinder blood flow in the rectal veins and contribute to the formation of hemorrhoids.
Age: The risk of developing hemorrhoids increases with age as the tissues supporting the veins in the rectal area may weaken over time.
Genetics: Some individuals may have a genetic predisposition to developing hemorrhoids.
Symptoms of Hemorrhoids
Depending on the type and degree, hemorrhoids can cause a variety of symptoms. Common symptoms include:
Rectal bleeding: Bright red blood may be noticed on toilet paper, in the toilet bowl, or on the surface of the stool.
Itching and irritation: The area around the anus may become itchy and irritated, leading to discomfort.
Pain or discomfort: Hemorrhoids can cause pain, especially during bowel movements or when sitting for prolonged periods.
When it comes to seeking professional help for hemorrhoids, there are several types of doctors you can consult:
General Practitioner: Your primary care physician can be an excellent starting point for diagnosing and treating hemorrhoids. They can assess your symptoms, provide guidance on self-care measures, and recommend further treatment options if necessary.
Gastroenterologist: Gastroenterologists specialize in diagnosing and treating diseases of the digestive system, including hemorrhoids. They may perform procedures like colonoscopy or sigmoidoscopy to evaluate the extent of the condition and provide appropriate treatment recommendations.
Proctologist/Colorectal Surgeon: These specialists focus on disorders of the rectum and anus. They have expertise in treating hemorrhoids and may perform surgical procedures if conservative treatments fail to provide relief. They can also screen for other conditions such as colon cancer.
How Doctors Diagnose Hemorrhoids
To diagnose hemorrhoids, doctors may perform a physical examination of the rectal area. They may visually inspect the anus, use a gloved finger to feel for any abnormalities, or employ additional diagnostic tests such as anoscopy, sigmoidoscopy, or colonoscopy to rule out other potential causes of the symptoms.
Non-Surgical Treatment Options
In many cases, hemorrhoids can be effectively managed without the need for surgery. Some non-surgical treatment options include:
Over-the-Counter Medications: Topical creams, ointments, or suppositories containing ingredients like hydrocortisone or witch hazel can provide temporary relief from itching and pain.
Prescription Medications: In certain cases, your doctor may prescribe medications like corticosteroids or stool softeners to ease symptoms and promote healing.
Surgical Treatment Options
Your doctor can suggest surgical procedures if non-surgical therapies are unsuccessful in relieving your symptoms. Common surgical procedures for hemorrhoid treatment include:
Rubber Band Ligation: A little rubber band is wrapped around the hemorrhoid’s base during this treatment, cutting off its blood supply and causing it to shrink and fall out.
Sclerotherapy: In sclerotherapy, a chemical solution is injected into the hemorrhoid, causing it to shrink and eventually disappear.
Infrared Coagulation: This procedure uses heat to create scar tissue, which cuts off the blood supply to the hemorrhoid and leads to its shrinkage.
Hemorrhoidectomy: Hemorrhoidectomy is the surgical removal of hemorrhoids. It is typically reserved for severe cases or when other treatments have been unsuccessful.
Alternative and Complementary Therapies
In addition to conventional medical treatments, some individuals explore alternative and complementary therapies for hemorrhoid relief. These may include herbal remedies, sitz baths, natural dietary supplements, and traditional practices like Ayurveda or Traditional Chinese Medicine.
Recovery and Aftercare
Recovery from hemorrhoid treatments can vary depending on the type of procedure performed. Non-surgical treatments typically have shorter recovery times, while surgical interventions may require more extensive healing. It’s crucial to follow your doctor’s instructions for aftercare, which may involve taking pain medications, using stool softeners, practicing good hygiene, and avoiding straining during bowel movements.
While hemorrhoids can be a recurring problem for some individuals, there are steps you can take to reduce the risk of developing them or experiencing flare-ups. Here are some prevention tips:
Maintain a high-fiber diet to promote regular bowel movements and prevent constipation.
Drink plenty of water to stay hydrated and soften stools.
Avoid straining during bowel movements; if needed, use a stool softener.
Engage in regular physical activity to stimulate bowel function.
Practice good anal hygiene, including gentle wiping and avoiding excessive cleaning or scrubbing.
Take breaks from sitting for extended periods, especially on hard surfaces.
Maintain a healthy weight to reduce pressure on the rectal veins.