Overview of hemorrhoids
Hemorrhoids are vascular structures present in the anal canal. In normal condition, hemorrhoids work as cushions that help in bowel control.
At times, the walls of these blood vessels stretch in a way that veins bulge out. This happens especially during the bowel movement. When these veins present in anus and rectum get inflamed and swollen, they cause a disease called as piles (or hemorrhoids). The term “hemorrhoids” may be misleading sometimes.
Hemorrhoids are quite common worldwide. About 50-60% of the world's population has hemorrhoids at some point in time in their lives. Men and women are affected equally with this condition.
Often people between the age group of 45-65 years are affected. Sometimes there is no noticeable symptom but most of the time they cause discomfort, itching and bleeding.
What causes hemorrhoids?
The exact cause of hemorrhoids is still unknown but a number of factors contribute to it. The common reasons for developing hemorrhoids are persistent constipation, diarrhea and sitting in the toilet for a long time. Read more about causes of hemorrhoids.
Hemorrhoids are common in women during pregnancy. They can be a result of excessive straining during bowel movement or increased pressure on the veins during pregnancy.
What are different types of hemorrhoids?
Hemorrhoids are of following two types:
- Internal hemorrhoids
- External hemorrhoids
The hemorrhoids present inside the rectum are called internal hemorrhoids. These hemorrhoids are present deep inside the rectum that a person cannot see or feel them. They are generally painless as there are fewer pain receptors in this area of the body.
Generally, bleeding is the only sign of their presence.
The hemorrhoids present in the area around the anal opening are called external hemorrhoids. These are under the skin and are usually painful as the area has several pain receptors.
They tend to hurt as well as bleed during the bowel movement. External hemorrhoids sometimes bulge out of the anus or grow bigger. They can also slip outside (prolapse) the anal sphincter.
A person suffering may see moist pink-colored bumps around the anal opening. A blood clot may form inside external hemorrhoids that can turn it blue or black. This type of hemorrhoid hurts and bleeds a lot and is called thrombosis. A skin is left over when the clot gets dissolved which may cause irritation.
There is no specific reason for swollen hemorrhoids. People having the family history of swollen hemorrhoids are more likely to get it. An extra pressure in the lower rectum can affect the blood flow which can swell these small veins. This may be due to following reasons:
- Pushing too hard during bowel movement (constipation or diarrhea)
- Physically straining (lifting something very heavy)
- People who stand or sit for a long period of time
Symptoms, diagnosis, and treatment of hemorrhoids
Symptoms of hemorrhoids may overlap with other diseases. Diagnosis is done by physical examination of the area. However, colonoscopy or sigmoidoscopy is used for the confirmation of diagnosis.
Taking a diet rich in fiber and drinking adequate amount of fluids along with pain relievers are some options available for treatment.
Medicated creams are also commercially available; however, their effectiveness is quite poor.
Surgery is recommended if other options fail to work. However, the person should consult a doctor to make sure of any other serious causes of symptoms.
There are many effective treatments for piles. Home treatment and changes in lifestyle are also beneficial. Hemorrhoids are not fatal in nature but they can give a person extreme pain and thus need to be drained out.