The lowest parts of the rectum and the anus have cushion-like tissues filled with blood vessels. Such tissues are located just beneath the mucous membrane lining. Even though, hemorrhoids refer to such cushion-like parts in the rectum and anus, this term is most commonly used to indicate the condition, wherein these veins swell and protrude along with the tissue. Though bowel movements cause an expansion of these veins, in case of strained bowel movements, the rate of expansion of the veins is higher; as compared to normal bowel movements. So, strained bowel movements for a long period leads to a condition, wherein the veins get so enlarged, that they bulge out with the surrounding tissues. Such tissues with enlarged blood vessels are called hemorrhoids, which are otherwise known as h-drops, anus grapes, devil's berries, or piles. Hemorrhoids are of two types - internal and external. While internal hemorrhoids develop inside the anus, external piles are found on the skin around the anus. However, both external and internal hemorrhoids can bulge out.
Hemorrhoids - Causes and Symptoms
As mentioned above, excess pressure on the veins in the anus result in their enlargement and protrusion, thereby causing hemorrhoids. There are various factors that contribute to this condition. Constipation and strained bowel movements are among the main causes of hemorrhoids. This condition may also develop in people, who have chronic diarrhea. Heavy weightlifting, smoking, and chronic cough due to asthma or any other lung disease, may also cause hemorrhoids, due to increase in intra-abdominal pressure. Such increase in pressure affects the blood flow to the veins, which swell, in an attempt to enhance the blood flow. Hemorrhoids can develop in obese people, because of the pressure exerted on the blood vessels, by the weight of the abdominal wall. Pregnancy and childbirth can also contribute to formation of hemorrhoids. Sitting for prolonged periods is another causative factor for this condition.
Most hemorrhoids are asymptomatic, but when it becomes ulcerated or thrombosed (filled with clotted blood); symptoms, like rectal bleeding (bright red blood in stools), itching (anal itching) and pain may develop. In case of internal hemorrhoids, the symptoms include mucus discharge, rectal bleeding, anal itching, and feeling of incomplete emptying of bowels. External hemorrhoids often interfere with anal hygiene and may also bleed, but hemorrhoid itching is not so common. Thrombosed and ulcerated hemorrhoids cause rectal pain, bleeding, itching, and swelling.
Itching in the anal region is a common symptom of hemorrhoids. In case of internal hemorrhoids, the mucous membrane of the anal canal secretes extra mucus that causes the itching. This mucus dries up in the anus and the surrounding region, thereby causing itching. The swollen veins of the hemorrhoids grow and cause itching and a burning sensation. External hemorrhoids cause itching, when sufficient care is not taken, to keep the area clean. Soap and other disinfectants which are used to clean the region, may also cause itching. Hemorrhoid itching can be treated in different ways.
Anti-itch creams are good for relief from itching caused by hemorrhoids. Such creams and ointments generally contain 1% hydrocortisone. You may also adopt an anti-itch diet, which can lower the pH balance of the stools. You have to avoid caffeinated and carbonated drinks, and alcoholic beverages. Consume more fruits and vegetables, especially those with vitamin C. Apart from that, drink plenty of water and other liquids. Sitz baths provide immediate relief from hemorrhoid itching. It will be better to use warm water for this purpose. Soak the area for at least ten minutes, every time you use the sitz bath, and repeat this two to four times a day.
You may also resort to alternative medicine, like homeopathy. A diet rich in fruits and vegetables, increased intake of fluids, and regular exercise, can prevent hemorrhoids and control the symptoms, to a great extent. It is advisable to avoid self medication.
Disclaimer: This article is for informational purposes only, and should not be used as a replacement for expert medical advice. Visiting your physician is the safest way to diagnose and treat any health condition.