Hemorrhoids aren›t a rare, strange condition. Many people, men and women alike, have them. It›s only when they swell and cause problems that you realize they›re there. About half of people bleed, have pain, or other symptoms by the time they turn 50. And women may get them during pregnancy.
What are they?
The human body has clumps of veins in and around the anus and lower part of the rectum, which is where feacal matter accumulates before being passed out through the anus, when the urge to do so arises. The cylindrical nature of the rectum, which is a part of the large intestine, and its ability to contract helps to recover water by squeezing the soft mashy mass of undigested food and enzymes, into cylindrical shape. If the feacal matter stays longer in the rectum, more moisture would be taken out of, thereby turn it into loosely-bonded pebble-like masses which get passed out with more difficulty during stooling.
As stated earlier, the clumps of veins in the rectum are designed by nature to stretch with pressure. When they swell or bulge, they’re called hemorrhoids. You can get them inside or just on the edge on the outside. They’re usually not serious, but they can be unpleasant.
What causes them?
It is not exactly clear what caused hemorrhoids. A person is more likely to get hemorrhoids if such a person has tendency to spend too long a time in passing stool. In other words, such a person quite often has to strain to void the rectum. This could be as a result of frequent constipation, which means that the feacal is hard and does not easily slide down when it is pushed downwards. Normally, the inner surface of the rectum is mucous layer that is vastly moisturized to reduce friction when the feacal is soft and wet. This eases uni-directional peristaltic movement towards the anus. The veins of the rectum can also engorge because of diarrhea. It is also believed that hemorrhoids may occur in people who strain to lift heavy things. The reason is that muscles around the waist and the abdomen play a role in generating the force that enables heavy items to be lifted from the ground. Hemorrhoids are more common in as a person gets older and when one is overweight or pregnant. It also runs in families – if your parents had them, you may get them, too.
One of the most common signs is painless bleeding, usually when you go to the bathroom. You might notice a little blood on the toilet paper as you clean the anus after stooling or in the toilet bowl. Your bottom may itch, hurt, or have tiny bulges around your anus. However, please carefully note that hemorrhoids aren’t the only reason for these symptoms. That is why you should see your doctor to rule out other problems.
How are they diagnosed?
Your doctor will ask about your symptoms and look at your bottom for hemorrhoids. He may also put a gloved finger inside to check for them there. To get a closer look, he may use a small tube called an anoscope. Your doctor may also suggest tests, called flexible sigmoidoscopy or colonoscopy, to see inside your colon and rectum with a lighted, bendable tube.
Internal and external
When a hemorrhoid from inside pushes outside or “prolapses,” it can bleed, hurt, and itch. It may go back in on its own as the swelling goes down, or you can gently nudge it back. A blood clot that forms in a hemorrhoid just under the skin outside is a thrombosis. It might get hard and sore and could bleed if it breaks. If the clot goes away, it may leave behind a little piece of skin called a skin tag that can bother you.
Food to prevent and relieve them
Soften your stool with fiber: Eat more leafy vegetables, fresh fruits, beans, and whole-grain breads and cereals. (Your doctor may also suggest a fiber supplement.) Add fiber to your diet slowly since too much, too fast, can lead to gas and bloating. Drink lots of water to make it easier to go to the bathroom and avoid constipation.
Treatment at home
Try non-prescription creams and wipes — or even a small ice pack — to ease pain and swelling. Soak in a bathtub filled with a few inches of warm water 2-3 times a day, or use a special “sitz bath” pan that fits onto your toilet seat. Then pat dry gently. An over-the-counter stool softener can make it easier to go.
Treatment by a doctor
When at-home remedies don›t work, your doctor may put special rubber bands or rings around internal hemorrhoids to cut off the blood supply until they shrink. This process is ligation. He can use heat to get rid of internal hemorrhoids, known as coagulation. Your doctor could also inject a chemical into the swollen tissue to break it down. This is called sclerotherapy.
For very large hemorrhoids or those that just won’t go away, a surgeon could simply cut out the swollen tissues. This surgery, called a hemorrhoidectomy, usually works but often has a long, painful recovery. A newer procedure uses staples to hold hemorrhoids in place instead. It’s less painful, and you’ll get better faster.
• Adapted from webmd.com