What are hemorrhoids?
Hemorrhoids (also known as piles) are swollen veins in the lower rectum that lump together causing pain. This is a medical issue that can affect both men and women and is found to be more common among adults. You are most likely to develop hemorrhoids after age 30 and by age 50, about half of the population will have experienced this condition. Although hemorrhoids aren’t life threatening, they can cause a substantial amount of pain and discomfort. There are two types of hemorrhoids that can develop.
Internal hemorrhoids are found on the inside of the anal canal. These lumps often can’t even be seen or felt and are typically painless. There are four grades of internal hemorrhoids that are determined by their degree of prolapse.
A prolapsed hemorrhoid is an internal hemorrhoid that is pushed through the anal opening. In Grade 1, there are just small inflammations inside the lining of the anus that are not yet visible on the outside. Prolapsed hemorrhoids exist in Grade 2 but these tend to go back in on their own. In Grade 3 and Grade 4, prolapsed hemorrhoids are prevalent and must be pushed back in. It is highly recommended to seek medical attention for hemorrhoids in Grade 4.
External hemorrhoids are lumps formed outside of the body, near the opening of the anus. It is possible to have both, internal and external hemorrhoids at the same time. External hemorrhoids are less common than internal hemorrhoids but are often much more painful. These outer lumps typically itch and bleed due to irritation from sitting, pressure and blood clots.
External hemorrhoids can rupture and turn into thrombosed hemorrhoids, developing blood clots. These ruptured hemorrhoids cause extreme pain and become purple or blue in color. Thrombosed hemorrhoids look alarming and are unbearably painful but they are usually not serious. They can resolve themselves in a matter of weeks but hemorrhoid removal is your quickest solution.
What causes hemorrhoids?
Hemorrhoids are caused by an excessive amount of pressure on the veins in the lower rectum. There are many factors that contribute to the likelihood of suffering from hemorrhoids. They are increasingly more likely with age as the tissues in your rectum become weaker and stretch over time. However, you are still susceptible to developing hemorrhoids at a younger age. Pressure can be caused on your anus by a variety of lifestyles and situations. Some factors that increase pressure to the veins in your anus are:
- Straining during bowel movements
- Low-fiber diet
- Constipation or diarrhea
- Heavy lifting
With internal hemorrhoids, you may not notice many symptoms before they begin bleeding. Internal hemorrhoids usually show up as bright red blood when you wipe, on the toilet bowl or on the stool. Some patients may experience a mucus discharge or itching around the anal cavity.
External hemorrhoids are more easily identifiable. These bluish bulges can be diagnosed by simply looking at them. They tend to appear spontaneously and cause a great deal of pain when sitting, straining or cleaning the area.
Some common symptoms of internal and external hemorrhoids are:
- Bleeding from passing a stool or blood found on stool
- Itching around anal cavity
- Feeling of fullness after a bowel movement
- Pain while sitting for long periods of time
- Hard lump found around the anus
- Pain while defecating
- Inflammation around anal cavity
How long do hemorrhoids last?
There is an undetermined amount of time during which a hemorrhoid can last in your system. In many cases, minor hemorrhoids can reduce in size and resolve on their own but this is only possible for very low grades of hemorrhoids that they often are not even diagnosed. Hemorrhoids that have become so serious that they have been diagnosed will not go away on their own. Leaving them without treatment can cause them to get progressively worse over time, growing in both size and number.
You can suffer from chronic hemorrhoids, which causes hemorrhoids to develop and grow often, even after removal. In some cases, hemorrhoids can last years or even a lifetime. The best solution to dealing with chronic hemorrhoids is to adjust your diet, remove existing hemorrhoids immediately, and increase your daily physical activity.
Hemorrhoids treatment and prevention
Not all cases of hemorrhoids need to be addressed by professionals but they do require some form of treatment to go away. Depending on the grade, frequency, and condition of your hemorrhoids, you can use home remedies and medications or seek medical attention to address the issue.
If you are prone to hemorrhoids, you can take steps to prevent them from growing faster and larger. Although there is not one specific cause of hemorrhoids, certain lifestyles make you more prone to developing them. Your exercising and eating habits contribute a great deal to how likely you are to suffer from hemorrhoids. Adjusting your diet to include fiber-rich foods, exercising regularly and having good posture can greatly reduce your chances of growing hemorrhoids.
Obese and pregnant people are more likely to have hemorrhoids because of the pressure a large stomach can put on the veins in your lower rectum. Obesity is also correlated with a poor diet, which can make bowel movements difficult. Constipation or straining while passing a stool are also likely when you are obese or pregnant, which ultimately increases your likelihood to develop hemorrhoids.
There are many ways to shrink hemorrhoids in order to lessen the irritation and pain. These measures can be taken before seeking medical attention for lower-grade internal hemorrhoids. Some of the most effective home remedies for hemorrhoids are:
- Applying witch hazel
- Over-the-counter hemorrhoid treatments
- Hemorrhoid suppositories
- Hemorrhoid creams
- Taking a sitz bath
- Applying an ice pack directly on the hemorrhoids
Aside from home remedies for hemorrhoids or treatments you can get from a store, the only other way to deal with hemorrhoids is to have them removed. Hemorrhoids that are causing you serious pain can be embarrassing and inhibiting. These extreme cases will never resolve themselves; they will worsen over time unless medical attention is sought out.
There are two popular methods of removing hemorrhoids:
- Hemorrhoid banding (rubber band ligation): Hemorrhoid banding is the most popular and most effective nonsurgical form of hemorrhoid removal. This is a procedure in which a tiny rubber band is tied around the base of the hemorrhoid, cutting off the blood flow. For internal hemorrhoids, this causes them to die and fall off eventually.
- Hemorrhoidectomy: If home remedies, treatments and hemorrhoid banding are not successful in removing hemorrhoids, you will need an invasive procedure. Hemorrhoidectomy is a procedure in which the hemorrhoids are surgically removed. This is the most serious and intense form of hemorrhoid treatment by far. It is recommended to try other solutions first, especially hemorrhoid banding. If hemorrhoid banding is successful, it can save you a great deal of money and time from not having to proceed with a hemorrhoidectomy.
What kind of doctor treats hemorrhoids?
Any regular family doctor or practitioner can diagnose your hemorrhoids but you will need to contact special doctors for the actual treatment. Preferably, you should visit a gastroenterologist, general or colorectal surgeon, or a proctologist if you require medical attention for your hemorrhoids.
Learn more about hemorrhoid banding and which doctors at our practice perform this procedure.