People around the world suffer from hemorrhoids, a common condition that causes bleeding, pain, itching, and discomfort in the lower portion of the rectum and anus. Hemorrhoids can appear internally or externally, depending on where they develop. They can also sometimes prolapse or protrude outside the anus.
This blog post will discuss the causes, symptoms, diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of hemorrhoids, as well as some tips on how to cope with this condition.
What Causes Hemorrhoids?
Hemorrhoids are caused by increased pressure on the veins in the rectum and anus. This pressure can result from various factors, such as:
- Straining during bowel movements
- Sitting for long periods of time on the toilet
- Having chronic constipation or diarrhea
- Being overweight or obese
- Being pregnant
- Having anal intercourse
- Eating a low-fiber diet
- Regular heavy lifting
Some people may also have a genetic predisposition to developing hemorrhoids, as they tend to run in families.
What are the Symptoms of Hemorrhoids?
There are a variety of symptoms associated with hemorrhoids, depending on the type and severity of the condition.
- During or after bowel movements, blood may appear on the toilet paper or in the toilet bowl. Blood is usually bright red.
- It may be worse when sitting, coughing, sneezing, or having a bowel movement.
- A rash or irritation around the anus may be caused by inflammation, infection, or stool leakage.
- Swelling or lumps around the anus that may be visible or palpable.
- Hemorrhoids protruding outside of the anus, often caused by straining or having a bowel movement.
How are Hemorrhoids Diagnosed?
The symptoms of hemorrhoids should be diagnosed and treated by your healthcare provider if you experience any of them. Your provider will ask you about your medical history, symptoms, lifestyle habits, and medications, as well as examine your rectum and anus for signs of hemorrhoids.
Your provider may also order tests to rule out other possible causes of your symptoms, such as:
- Digital rectal exam: This involves inserting a gloved finger into your rectum to feel for any abnormalities.
- Sigmoidoscopy: This involves inserting a thin tube with a light and camera into your rectum to examine the lower part of your colon.
- Anoscopy: This involves inserting a small instrument with a light into your anus to examine the anal canal.
- Colonoscopy: This involves inserting a long flexible tube with a light and camera into your rectum to examine your entire colon.
How are Hemorrhoids Treated?
Hemorrhoids are treated based on their type and severity as well as your personal preferences and overall health. The main goals of treatment are to alleviate symptoms, prevent complications, and improve quality of life.
Some of the treatment options for hemorrhoids include:
- Medication: Your provider may prescribe or recommend some medications to help reduce the inflammation, pain, itching, and bleeding caused by hemorrhoids. These may include:
- Acetaminophen: This is an over-the-counter pain reliever that can help ease mild to moderate pain.
- Psyllium or methylcellulose: These are fiber supplements that can help soften your stools and make them easier to pass.
- Topical creams or ointments: These are applied directly to the affected area to soothe and protect the skin. They may contain ingredients such as hydrocortisone, lidocaine, witch hazel, or zinc oxide.
- Suppositories: These are inserted into your rectum to deliver medication directly to the hemorrhoids. They may contain ingredients such as hydrocortisone or glycerin.
- Self-care: You can also take some steps at home to ease your symptoms and promote healing. These include:
- Applying ice packs or cold compresses to the affected area for 10 to 15 minutes several times a day.
- Soaking in a warm bath or sitz bath for 15 to 20 minutes several times a day.
- Keeping the anal area clean and dry by gently wiping with moistened toilet paper or baby wipes after each bowel movement.
- Avoiding rubbing or scratching the affected area as this can worsen the irritation and inflammation.
- Wearing loose-fitting cotton underwear and clothing to prevent friction and moisture buildup.
- Avoiding straining, holding your breath, or lifting heavy objects as this can increase the pressure on the veins.
- Drinking plenty of fluids and eating a high-fiber diet to prevent constipation and soften your stools.
- Exercising regularly to improve your blood circulation and bowel function.
- Surgery: If your hemorrhoids are severe, persistent, or complicated by other conditions, your provider may recommend surgery to remove them. Surgery is usually reserved for cases where other treatments have failed or are not suitable. Some of the surgical procedures for hemorrhoids include:
- Rubber band ligation: This involves placing a rubber band around the base of an internal hemorrhoid to cut off its blood supply. This causes the hemorrhoid to shrink and fall off within a few days.
- Sclerotherapy: This involves injecting a chemical solution into an internal hemorrhoid to scar and shrink it.
- Hemorrhoid stapling: This involves using a special device to staple and cut off the blood supply of an internal hemorrhoid. This also pulls the prolapsed hemorrhoid back into the rectum.
- Hemorrhoidectomy: This involves surgically removing the excess tissue that causes bleeding and protrusion. This is the most effective and permanent way of treating hemorrhoids, but it also has the highest risk of complications and recovery time.
How can Hemorrhoids be Prevented?
The best way to prevent hemorrhoids is to avoid the factors that cause them or make them worse. Some of the preventive measures that you can take include:
- Consuming plenty of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts, and seeds will bulk up your stools and make them easier to pass.
- Staying hydrated and keeping your stools soft requires drinking enough fluids. Water is best, but juice, tea, or coffee can also be consumed in moderation. Avoid alcohol, caffeine, and spicy foods, which can dehydrate you.
- Constipation can cause pressure on the veins, so having regular bowel movements and not delaying them when you feel the urge helps prevent it.
- Standing or sitting for a long period of time can strain the veins. When working at a desk, use a cushion or pillow to support your lower back and elevate your feet slightly. Take breaks to stretch or walk around frequently. Wear comfortable shoes and alternate your legs on a stool or footrest if you have a standing job.
- Losing excess weight can help reduce your risk of hemorrhoids and improve your overall health. Maintaining a healthy body weight appropriate to your height and age is important. Being overweight or obese can increase the pressure on the veins and contribute to hemorrhoids.
- Use lubrication and protection if you engage in anal intercourse. Anal intercourse can damage the tissues and veins in the anal region, increasing the risk of infection and inflammation.
- You should seek medical attention if you experience any symptoms of hemorrhoids or other digestive disorders. Early diagnosis and treatment can help prevent complications and improve your results.
Various factors such as straining, sitting, constipation, pregnancy, obesity, or anal intercourse can cause hemorrhoids, which can cause discomfort, pain, bleeding, and itching.
Depending on their type and severity, hemorrhoids can be treated with medication, self-care, or surgery. Treatment aims to relieve symptoms, prevent complications, and enhance quality of life.
A person can prevent hemorrhoids by avoiding factors that cause or worsen them. Among the prevention measures are eating a high-fiber diet, drinking enough water, having regular bowel movements, changing positions frequently, maintaining a healthy weight, avoiding anal intercourse, and seeking medical attention.
If you follow these tips, you will be able to manage hemorrhoids effectively and live a more comfortable and healthy life.