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Hemorrhoids – symptoms, causes, diagnosis, treatment and more

Jul 7, 2019 |
9 min read

We all have hemorrhoids but they can cause problems for some. Understanding what they are and what to look for, can help you to find the right treatment.

What are hemorrhoids?

Hemorrhoids are found around the anus or in the lower rectum, and they are swollen veins. By the age of 50, around 50% of adults have experienced hemorrhoids symptoms. (1)

There are two types of Hemorrhoids, and they can be both internal hemorrhoids.

As the name suggests, internal hemorrhoids develop inside the anus or rectum. In contrast to this, external hemorrhoids develop outside of the anus.

However, the most common and troublesome are external hemorrhoids. They come with pain, itching and can cause problems with sitting. However, there is treatment available. (2)

Hemorrhoids – The symptoms

Hemorrhoid symptoms can vary. However, several common symptoms can be present. (3)

The symptoms include an itch around the anus as well as pain and irritation. Commonly, there will be a painful lump or swelling near the anus.

In some cases, there may be fecal leakage as well as pain with bowel movements. Bleeding hemorrhoids can leave blood on the tissue after passing a stool.

Even though it is a painful condition, it is not life-threatening. One question many people ask is, “do hemorrhoids go away on their own?”.

In many cases, they will disappear on their own without treatment. However, if you suffer frequently, then you could suffer from anemia due to blood loss.

Hemorrhoids – what causes them?

Experts are not entirely sure what causes them. If you are wondering “how do you get hemorrhoids,” then it could be down to several factors.

They can develop from straining during a bowel movement. In some cases, they can grow from complications from severe constipation.

They can also develop from sitting for an extended period and in particular, sitting on the toilet. They can also be hereditary and so, if there is family history, then that could be a factor.

Risk factors

The risk of developing hemorrhoids increases if your parents suffer or suffered from them. If you regularly lift heavy items, then the strain can increase the risk as well as being obese.

Any form of constant stress on the body can lead to their development.

Standing for extended periods can also cause hemorrhoids to develop. Pregnancy can also lead to the development of hemorrhoids. (4)

As the uterus grows, it puts pressure on the vein in the colon, leading to it bulging.

Diagnosing hemorrhoids

Often, a visual examination is sufficient enough to diagnose the problem. To confirm the diagnosis, your doctor might carry out an alternative analysis. (5)

Here they will check for abnormalities in the anus. This is known as a digital rectal exam. The doctor will insert a lubricated and gloved finger into the rectum.

They check for anything abnormal, and in some instances, they may request a sigmoidoscopy.

A sigmoidoscopy involves the use of a camera. This small, fiber-optic camera fits into a small tube which the doctor inserts into your rectum.

This provides a clear view of the inside of the rectum. This allows them to sift through hemorrhoid.

Hemorrhoids treatment – the options

It is possible to treat hemorrhoids at home, at your GP, or even at the hospital. Necessarily, there are many different treatments available to try. (6)

Relieving pain

Hemorrhoids can be painful, and so, a soak in a warm bath can help. You can also ease the pain of external Hemorrhoids but sitting on a hot water bottle.

If the pain is extreme, then you can take an over-the-counter medicine. This can be a medicated suppository, cream, or ointment. All of these can help to ease the burning or itching sensation.

Fiber supplements

If you are suffering from constipation, then an over-the-counter fiber supplement can help. These work to soften the stool and can help a lot. Through softening the seat, it prevents straining and makes it easier to pass. (7)

Home remedies

There are many different options available here. Therefore, it is all about finding the hemorrhoids remedy that works for you. (8)

You can make use of hydrocortisone cream that can ease the discomfort. You can also soak in the bath, which can help to ease the pain.

Good hygiene is an absolute must. Therefore, you can wash your anus with warm water each day. However, do not use soap as these can agitate prolapsed hemorrhoids.

Also, avoid dry or rough toilet paper after a bowel movement.

A cold compress can also help to ease the swelling. You can also make use of pain relievers such as paracetamol, ibuprofen, or aspirin.

Medical procedures

If home treatments are not helping, you might be referred for additional treatment. One medical procedure is known as the rubber band ligation. (9)

This involves the doctor stopping the blood flow to hemorrhoid by using a rubber band. This will prevent circulation and forces it to shrink.

However, this is a treatment that should be carried out by a specialist. It should not be attempted at home.

If this treatment is not an option, then injection therapy might be used. This involves your doctor injecting a chemical directly into the blood vessel. This will then cause it to shrink in size.

Preventing hemorrhoids

If you want to prevent hemorrhoids or stop it from becoming worse, then you should avoid straining during a bowel movement. (10)

You should also try to consume more water, this can help to soften your stool.

When you feel the urge to go to the toilet, you should do so as soon as possible. This can prevent hemorrhoids from developing. Regular exercise can also help to avoid constipation. (11)

You should also avoid sitting on hard surfaces for long periods.

Foods that are high in fiber can also help as they can keep stools soft and prevent constipation. Therefore, you should aim to eat foods such as:

  • brown rice
  • oatmeal
  • whole wheat
  • carrots
  • pears
  • bran

Hemorrhoid complications – what are they?

Complications are infrequent, but they can occur. This can include the following:

  • bleeding (12)
  • blood clots in the swollen vein
  • Iron deficiency anemia which comes from a loss of blood.

Things we should know about hemorrhoids

Everyone suffers from them

This might shock many, but the truth is we all have them. The thing is, hemorrhoids are typical as they are just anal tissue that provides support in the anal canal.

They work in a similar way to pelvic floor muscles that help to prevent urine from leaking out.

However, hemorrhoids prevent stools and gas from leaking out. The only time they become symptomatic is when people begin to notice them, other than that, they do their job with very little fuss.

They are not painful for all

In reality, a lot has to change for this tissue that is normal to become painful, itchy, and inflamed, not forgetting how they can protrude from the anus. The main reason for this happening is due to pressure from the abdomen.

This is usually through straining while suffering from constipation, increased weight around the abdomen, pregnancy, and long-distance running.

If we take better care of ourselves, we can reduce the risk, but the pressure causes the tissue to weaken and stretch over time.

The stretching cause the blood vessels to dilate, which increases blood flow to the area. The hemorrhoids then swell and can bleed.

More people suffer than you realize

Around 5% of people have hemorrhoids that present the specific symptoms that cause problems.

As you get older, the risk increase and that means that approximately 50% of people over 50 are suffering from the issue, according to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases.

There are two types of hemorrhoids

These are known as internal and external, and they are as they are explained. External hemorrhoids occur around the opening of the anus, and they are covered with skin.

As a result, they also have nerves. This is where the sensations of pain, itching, and burning come from.

Internal hemorrhoids cannot be seen as they remain inside the anal canal. These are not covered in skin, which means that you won’t feel any sensations from them.

However, these are more likely to suffer from bleeds. If things get bad, then they can prolapse.

They are not harmful

The entire description of hemorrhoids makes them sound terrible. Of course, the pain and the other feelings that come with them are not great.

Despite this, the good news is that they are not likely to cause health problems. They are not linked to any forms of cancer, which is a positive.

The only possible problem they can cause is anemia. This can only occur if they bleed heavily.

You should visit the doctor

Many people who experience symptoms think that it is likely to be hemorrhoids. They then opt for an OTC treatment and try to deal with it themselves. However, you should not avoid seeing your doctor. If you are unable to see where the blood is coming from, then it could be something serious. (13)

Anyone who suffers from new bleeding or blood in their stools should seek medical advice. While it could be hemorrhoids, the symptoms can be similar to certain cancers. What’s more, if the symptoms last, then they can cause fissures or warts, which require more treatment. (14)

Avoid hemorrhoids by watching your toilet habits

It is incredibly natural to go to the toilet, but the truth is, people spend too much time there. Even if people see it as a time to escape for a while, it should be avoided. As your cheeks spread over the toilet, it places pressure on the anal tissue.

This leads to blood pooling in hemorrhoids, causing them to swell. For most people who suffer, the first form of treatment is to ensure they have a proper toilet regime. So, reducing the time spent on the toilet can significantly reduce the risk of hemorrhoids.

Constipation can trigger it

When we are constipated, we have that urge to push. It feels natural, but the very second that you begin pushing the pressure increase. This can cause the hemorrhoids to become swollen.

Treating hemorrhoids often involves treating constipation. So, getting hydrated is the easiest way to ease constipation.

If you are thirsty and dehydrated, the harder your stools will be. If you increase your fiber intake, then this will help water to bind to your seat.

This can be done through a supplement or by increasing your dietary fiber. This ensures that the stool is softer and passes quickly.

This requires less pressure and pushing. Effectively, it becomes an effortless experience. If you find that constipation is still a problem, then medication can help. (15)

The outlook

At first, when you discover hemorrhoids are present, it can be alarming. The lumpy protrusion can leave you worried. However, on the whole, hemorrhoids don’t cause problems.

Yes, they can be painful, itchy, and angry, but that can be managed.

Ensuring that you have a proper diet is one way to prevent them. There are also lifestyle changes that can also help, such as reducing fat intake and losing weight.

A change in your toilet behavior can also make a difference.

With the correct treatment and planning, it is common to see an improvement. If you follow the advice of your doctor, then things will get better.

Maintain your regimen, exercise, and avoid sitting for long periods. All of this will reduce the pressure and reduce the symptoms. All of which will eventually result in an improved outlook.

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