Hemorrhoids are swollen and inflamed blood vessels and veins that cause many people pain and discomfort. By age fifty almost half of all adults have had to deal with the bleeding, discomfort, and itch that signals the presence of hemorrhoids in the body. Also known as “piles,” they occur in your anus and rectum.
What Causes Hemorrhoids?
Hemorrhoids are common, but there are several risk factors/behaviors that are linked to the development of hemorrhoids in the body. These lifestyle choices are known to cause or co-occur with hemorrhoids:
- Anal Intercourse
- Chronic Constipation
- Chronic Diarrhea
- Diets that are high in fat and low in fiber. These diets lack enough whole grains, fresh fruits, and vegetables)
- Heart Disease
- Liver Disease
- Pelvic Floor Muscle: as you age, become pregnant, have children, and have surgery your pelvic floor muscle becomes less toned.
Hemorrhoids symptoms are easy to notice, but the extent of your hemorrhoid problems are impossible to self-diagnose. Painless bleeding from the rectum is the most common sign of hemorrhoids, but rectal bleeding can co-occur with anal and colorectal cancers. Don’t assume anything is hemorrhoids until you consult your doctor.
It is important to get checked out by your doctor if you have even a couple of these symptoms:
- Blood in Stool
- Itching and Irritation
- Leaking Feces
- Rectal Pain
- Painless Bleeding (during bowel movements– noticing small amounts of bright red blood on the toilet paper is a sign)
- Swelling & Sensitivity (general swelling, or a specific lump near your anus)
If your symptoms begin with a change in your bowel habits, and you start passing black, tarry or maroon stools or notice blood clots or blood mixed in your stool, consult your doctor right away because it could be a sign of more extensive bleeding in your digestive tract.
Dealing With Hemorrhoids
There are three essential self-care methods you can use to get rid of your hemorrhoids, steroids (hydrocortisone cream), soothing remedies (ice, cold compresses), and changes in lifestyle (high fiber diet). Some other topical treatments for hemorrhoids that are known to work well are as follows:
- Witch Hazel
Stool softeners, high-fiber diet, and ten glasses of water a day are also known to help ease the strain and pain of hemorrhoids. Lifestyle changes and topical treatments work very well on external hemorrhoids. However, if you are diagnosed with internal hemorrhoids that are big enough to jeopardize your digestive health, or if your case of hemorrhoids is severe and does not resolve itself with at-home treatment, will need to go in for hemorrhoid surgery.
Hemorrhoid Surgery Procedures
- Banding: A procedure used to treat internal hemorrhoid, banding (also known as rubber band ligation) involves using a tight band around hemorrhoid to cut off its blood supply.
- Coagulation Therapy: Also known as infrared coagulation, this treatment utilizes infrared heat, light, or extreme cold. These conditions force your hemorrhoid to shrink as it reacts to the cold. This procedure is done at a doctor’s office, usually performed along with an anoscopy. A scope will be inserted into your rectum and will allow your doctor to see what they can do to minimize your hemorrhoid pain and discomfort.
- Hemorrhoidectomy: This procedure is for large external and internal hemorrhoids that have prolapsed. Prolapsing happens when passing stool damages hemorrhoid’s delicate surface, causing it to bleed. Additional rectal straining can push hemorrhoid through your anal opening. This is known as a protruding or prolapsed hemorrhoid, and it requires surgery to remove the pain and inflammation it causes.
- Hemorrhoidopexy: A procedure that is used to treat prolapsed hemorrhoids. A surgical staple is used to fix your prolapsed hemorrhoid back into your rectum, cutting off the blood supply and allowing the inflamed tissues to shrink and become reabsorbed int the rectum. This procedure takes less time and is less painful than a hemorrhoidectomy.
- Sclerotherapy: A procedure that involves injecting a chemical into the hemorrhoid. The injection will make the hemorrhoid shrink and stop it from bleeding. This procedure is done at a doctor’s office without any known risks. This procedure has the best success rate with small internal hemorrhoids.
Rectal and anal pain are to be expected while recovering from hemorrhoid surgery. Your doctor may prescribe a painkiller to ease your discomfort during recovery.
While recovering, make sure to:
- Eat a diet high in fiber
- Stay hydrated– eight to ten glasses of water per day
- Use stool softeners to help your bowel movements. Making sure you aren’t straining to produce fecal matter is imperative during your healing process.
Ultimately, it is up to you to refrain from diagnosing yourself with hemorrhoids. We all experience these symptoms occasionally; make sure you are meeting with doctors who will consider every option before diagnosing you. Hemorrhoid surgery isn’t for everyone, but it could be for you!
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