Although hemorrhoids aren’t life-threatening, they can be uncomfortable or painful and disrupt your day-to-day activities. Also called piles, hemorrhoids are swollen veins, akin to varicose veins, of the rectum or anus. They can form inside or outside the body. Fortunately, hemorrhoids are treatable and even preventable.
What are Hemorrhoids?
Hemorrhoids are bulging, irritated veins of the anus or rectum. They are caused by excessive pressure or stretching. Everyone has hemorrhoids, but they’re not problematic until they become swollen and inflamed.
Types of Hemorrhoids
There are three types of hemorrhoids:
These hemorrhoids develop within the rectum. When you strain as you defecate, you may experience pain-free bleeding. The only way you’ll know if you have an internal hemorrhoid is if there’s a small amount of blood on your toilet paper when you wipe.
An internal hemorrhoid may also force its way out of the anus.
External hemorrhoids form around the opening of your anus. They can cause:
Thrombosed hemorrhoids are external or internal hemorrhoids that fill with blood clots. Although they are not dangerous, they can cause:
- Intense pain.
- Lumps around your anus.
What Causes Hemorrhoids?
Hemorrhoids result when the veins in your rectum are subjected to excessive stretching and pressure. This can be caused by:
- Sitting Too Long on the Toilet – The toilet’s open seat causes your bottom to be in a lower, stretched position that can trigger the development of hemorrhoids.
- Pregnancy – During pregnancy, the growing uterus presses on the colon.
- Childbirth – Hemorrhoids can be caused by bearing down during childbirth.
- Constipation – Straining to move a hard stool puts excessive stress on your colon or anus.
- Repeated Heavy Lifting – Lifting weights, furniture, or other heavy items can cause you to strain, putting pressure on the anal and rectal blood vessels.
- Obesity – Pressure from excess weight can overburden the anus and rectum.
- Insufficient Dietary Fiber.
- Sedentary Lifestyle.
How Can I Prevent Hemorrhoids?
There are simple, preventive measures you can take to discourage the development of hemorrhoids:
- Drink eight eight-ounce glasses of water a day. This helps soften your bowel movements.
- Eat fiber-rich fruits, vegetables, and grains. These include broccoli, blueberries, whole-grain bread, and nuts.
- Take fiber supplements. If you don’t get enough dietary fiber, you can take over-the-counter fiber products.
- Go to the bathroom as soon as you feel the urge. If you don’t, your body will absorb liquid from your bowel movement, and it will be harder to pass.
- Exercise. Regular activity helps ease pressure on veins and keeps food moving through the intestine, so the body has less time to absorb water contained in the stool.
How are Hemorrhoids Diagnosed?
There are several types of exams doctors use to determine which hemorrhoid treatment is best for your particular condition.
During a physical exam, your doctor will review your overall health and visually analyze any lumps or irritation in the anus and rectum. Digital means finger, and during this exam, your doctor will insert a gloved, lubricated finger into your rectum to locate lumps and other issues.
If the diagnosis is inconclusive or further investigation is needed to determine whether other issues contribute to your hemorrhoids, your doctor may order an anoscopy. A short, rigid tube with a light (anoscope) is used to examine your rectum and anus. A similar procedure, high-resolution anoscopy, employs an anoscope along with a magnifying tool (colposcope) to give a more detailed examination of the areas in question.
A flexible, lighted tube with an attached camera enables your doctor to view the lower third of your colon (intestine) during a sigmoidoscopy. The instrument is also equipped with a tool that can collect a tissue sample for analysis.
A colonoscopy is when a long tube, with a light and a camera, is used to see your entire colon. Tissue specimens can also be extracted with a colonoscope.
What Can be Done to Treat Hemorrhoids?
Hemorrhoids often go away with simple home treatments.
A sitz bath involves sitting in a few inches of warm water to soothe your hemorrhoids. Add Epsom salts and sit for about 20 minutes for the greatest soothing.
Stool softeners pull water into the bowel movement, so it softens and passes more easily.
After moving your bowels, clean up with flushable wet wipes or lotion-infused wipes. If you use toilet paper, make sure to get the softest brand possible, and wipe very gently.
Use over-the-counter ointments. Hemorrhoid treatments such as Preparation H can provide quick relief for pain and itching.
Although aloe vera is a common ingredient found in many medications, you should only use pure aloe vera gel as a hemorrhoid treatment.
Ice wrapped in a towel or cloth and applied to the irritated area for 10 minutes a day can reduce swelling and pain.
If you’ve tried home remedies, but your hemorrhoid symptoms linger a week or more, you may need to see your gastroenterologist for an exam and consultation on one of the following treatments:
This non-surgical hemorrhoid treatment uses a tool that sends an electrical current to prevent blood from flowing to the hemorrhoid. This procedure is only used for internal hemorrhoids.
Rubber Band Ligation
For rubber band ligation, a hemorrhoid is tied off at its base with a rubber band. This cuts off the hemorrhoid’s blood supply, causing it to shrivel, fall off and be carried off in your bowel movement. Rubber band ligation is only for internal hemorrhoids.
During this procedure, an infrared light is used to coagulate (clot) the hemorrhoid’s blood vessels, causing it to die. Infrared coagulation is only used for internal hemorrhoids and only for small and medium-size hemorrhoids.
Sclerotherapy is a hemorrhoid treatment that is used if you don’t respond to other procedures. During sclerotherapy, a chemical is injected into the hemorrhoid’s base. The chemical stiffens the hemorrhoid by cutting off its blood supply, causing it to shrink in about four to six weeks. Sclerotherapy is only used for internal hemorrhoids.
If you suffer from large internal hemorrhoids or many severe external hemorrhoids, one of the following types of surgery may be necessary.
During this type of hemorrhoid treatment, cuts are made around the hemorrhoid, the affected vein inside it is tied off, and the hemorrhoid is removed. The surgery is performed with a scalpel, laser, or cautery pencil (a tool that heats tissue and cauterizes it).
Hemorrhoid stapling is reserved for severe hemorrhoids that protrude from the anus. During this procedure, the hemorrhoid isn’t removed. Instead, tissue is removed that causes the hemorrhoid to sag, and the hemorrhoid is stapled back into its proper position.
Sometimes, hemorrhoids resolve on their own. If your hemorrhoids persist and you are continually dealing with discomfort and pain, the issue could get worse if it is not treated.
Contact us today! The team of professionals at GastroMD looks forward to working with you. We are one of the leading gastroenterology practices in the Tampa Bay area. We perform a host of diagnostic procedures using state-of-the-art equipment in a friendly, comfortable, and inviting atmosphere where patient care is always a top priority!