More than 525,000 patients are treated annually for symptomatic hemorrhoids – and countless more suffer in silence. By themselves, they are rarely serious, but they can mask more serious conditions including rectal and colon cancer. Therefore, they should be evaluated and diagnosed by a physician.
Also called “piles”, hemorrhoids are dilated (enlarged) veins that occur in and around the rectum and anus. They can be external (which can be felt or seen as lumps or knots) or internal (which cannot be seen).
Click on the statements/questions below to reveal the answers to the causes, symtoms and signs of this particular disease.
There are various symptoms that can indicate hemorrhoids including pain, itching and bleeding. (Remember, although bright red blood is a symptom of hemorrhoids, it can also be a symptom of other conditions and should be evaluated by a physician.)
Some conditions can increase your risk of getting hemorrhoids including poor bowel habits, constipation, recurring diarrhea, being overweight, having a family history of hemorrhoids, being 50 or older, pregnancy, labor and delivery.
Because standing or sitting for long periods of time puts pressure on the rectal and anal areas, this can cause hemorrhoids or make them worse. Yet, some patients don’t have any of these conditions or history, and still develop hemorrhoids.
As mentioned previously, complications can include bleeding, itching and irritation. A more serious complication is a blood clot in the hemorrhoid, which may cause severe pain and demand immediate treatment.
Treatment of hemorrhoids depends on where they are, what problems they’re causing and how serious they are. Often there isn’t a need for treatment – or requires conservative treatment. This includes keeping the anal area clean and dry (gently dab after a bowel movement instead of rubbing vigorously). Eating a diet high in fiber, bran and roughage which creates soft bulky stools. You can also purchase bulking agents such as Metamucil or Citrucel. Avoiding straining with bowel movements is advised. Patients can also take a “hot sitz bath” – this is a 10-20 minute warm tub bath two to four times daily.
If more extensive treatment is needed, it may include:
Ligation. This common method of treating internal hemorrhoids involves using a small rubber band to tie off the base of the swollen vein. The blood circulation stops and the hemorrhoid falls off. Sometimes it needs to be repeated.
Infrared Photocoagulation. An infrared light source is used to coagulate (clot the blood) internal hemorrhoids. This, too, often requires more than one treatment.
In some cases surgery may be needed. These treatment options include:
Hemorrhoidectomy. This may be performed on large internal hemorrhoids or when other treatments have failed. Under general or spinal anesthesia, incisions are made in the tissue around the hemorrhoid. The swollen vein inside the hemorrhoid is tied off and the hemorrhoid is removed.
Procedure for Prolapse and Hemorrhoids (PPH). Using a hemorrhoidal stapler device, this procedure removes hemorrhoidal tissue and closes the wound, without ever making an incision. Blood flow is reduced to the internal hemorrhoid(s), which typically shrink within 4-6 weeks.
There are some things you can do to reduce the likelihood of getting hemorrhoids. These include:
- Eat plenty of fiber, bran and roughage, or use a bulking agent (Metamucil or Citrucel) to maintain regular, soft bowel movements.
- Don’t delay or try to prevent a bowel movement when the urge is present.
- Avoid straining when having a bowel movement.
- Regular exercise, particularly aerobic (even walking), may help produce regular bowel movements.
- Drink plenty of liquids and eat regularly scheduled meals.
- Maintain a healthy weight.
- Keep the area around the anus clean and dry.