Hemorrhoids are an unpleasant and somewhat embarrassing condition that can affect a number of aspects of our lives until they’re addressed and fixed (mostly those involving sitting down…). More precisely actually, hemorrhoids in themselves are not technically a bad thing and are something that everyone should have normally; the word hemorrhoid really just refers to the vascular structures found normally in the anal canal used to help control the passage of stool and it’s piles that are the embarrassing and unpleasant problem.
The issue occurs when these hemorrhoids become inflamed at which point they will push out from the skin and become painful. This is what’s known as ‘piles’ and this is what you need to address.
Types of Piles and Symptoms
Unknown to most people, there are actually two forms of piles called ‘internal’ and ‘external’ and the symptoms will vary depending on the kind you suffer from.
In internal hemorrhoids, the hemorrhoids aren’t protruding externally, but are nevertheless swollen inside. These internal piles are normally painless, but will nevertheless cause bright red patches around the skin and may cause bleeding during bowl movements – which can cause alarm. Normally the stool itself will be of normal colour, but other symptoms might include mucus discharge, incontinence and itchiness.
Meanwhile external hemorrhoids are more severe when prolapsed and can be very painful making it difficult to sit down or to wear tight trousers. These can create many of the same symptoms meanwhile as internal piles including rectal bleeding and itchiness and may leave a scar after they have healed. Of course the visible appearance of the piles is the most obvious symptom and you can get someone to check for you or do it yourself using a mirror. Normally these will appear as angry red lumps that protrude from around the sides of the anus and these can vary in number and in size. If you don’t know what to look for then try doing a search in Google Images, but be warned: it’s not a pretty sight (most cases won’t be so severe before you develop an aversion to ever sitting down…).
Though it’s rare, in some cases the bleeding caused by piles can lead to anaemia (low iron) which will in turn cause tiredness and lethargy and potentially paler skin. If you are losing a lot of blood you might want to consider supplementing your diet with an iron tablet. Other problems can come from the difficulty that will be encountered when trying to wipe – it’s important to make sure that you still clean thoroughly.
Causes of Hemorrhoids
The precise causes of hemorrhoids is not known, but the problem is often linked to either straining very hard when going to the toilet (possibly when constipated), large numbers of bowel movements (perhaps caused by diarrhoea) and often sitting for long periods of time on hard and cold surfaces. You may also develop hemorrhoids if you strain in other ways – for instance when lifting weights in the gym, or moving furniture. Meanwhile if your stool is difficult to pass this can cause hemorrhoids even without constipation and as such you might suffer from the condition if you aren’t getting enough fibre in your diet to help with the bowel movements. Lack of exercise has also been correlated with hemorrhoids, and it is commonly experienced during pregnancy when the pressure of the foetus on the abdomen coupled with hormonal changes seem to make it more likely. There is a genetic tendency towards hemorrhoids which makes certain people more likely to suffer than others, but this is not fully understood.
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Treatments and Prognosis
Normally you should find that any external signs of piles clear up within two to three days with no need for treatment and the pain should subside with this. However the swelling may take a few weeks to reduce.
As such in many cases recommended treatment will be mostly aimed at managing the problem. This will consist of increasing your intake of fibre, making sure to drink lots of fluid and using non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs in order to reduce the swelling. A popular home remedy is to use a ‘sitz bath’ which is a bath in which a person sits in water just up to the hips to relieve comfort, and you can achieve similar with a beday. A beday can also be useful for cleaning the area without causing undue pain. There are many topical agents available for piles, but there is little evidence to support their effectiveness. General rest is also important, and you may want to use analgesics and soft cushions to help combat the discomfort.
Other treatments exist for more persistent external hemorrhoids. For instance rubber band ligation involves clamping an elastic band around the base of the pile. This way the pile is ‘choked’ of blood and oxygen and it should eventually die as a result. Cure rate is around 87% and this is usually used as the first treatment option when the hemorrhoids don’t subside on their own.
Failing this sclerotherapy may be used which means injecting a sclerosing agent into the hemorrhoid. This leads to the walls collapsing in and again the hemorrhoids should die off. This tends to be better at preventing relapse compared to rubber band ligation. Cauterization is also often used and this can use electricity, lasers or dry ice.
Finally there are many surgical techniques available for removing stubborn hemorrhoids. This is generally avoided where possible and only used when no other options seem to work or when the hemorrhoids keep coming back as they are likely to cause complications such as retention, anal structures, bleeding and infection and as they are more likely that other methods to leave behind scarring. Most cases will not require surgery.
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Prevention of Hemorrhoids
Of course though a prevention is better than a cure, and while the causes of hemorrhoids are not fully understood, it’s generally possible to reduce your likelihood of suffering from piles. You can do this by making sure you eat lots of fibre in your diet, by avoiding straining during defecation (taking your time and making sure only to go when you’re really need to), sitting on something soft at work (request a nice cushion) and making sure to get lots of exercise.
Follow these tips, and as baseball player George Brett once quipped, your problems will all be behind you…
This is a guest post by Jamie Watt from AustinLaserDentist.com. If you are also interested to write for HealthResource4u, Please check our guest posting guidelines at write for us.