Hemorrhoids are actually tissues filled with blood vessels that line the rectum and the anus. But this term is generally used to refer to the inflammation of the veins of the rectum and the anus. Any condition that puts excessive pressure or strain on the rectal wall can cause the veins or hemorrhoidal vessels to swell and bulge out. This condition is commonly known as piles.
When the hemorrhoidal vessels present inside the rectal canal become inflamed and enlarged, they are called internal hemorrhoids, while those occurring under the skin around the anus are known as external hemorrhoids. Sometimes, the internal hemorrhoids can bulge out through the anal opening leading to a condition, known as prolapsed internal hemorrhoids.
Causes and Risk Factors
As has been mentioned already, conditions that put excess pressure or strain on the rectal wall can cause hemorrhoids or piles. Such conditions are, constipation, diarrhea, anal or rectal infections, anal intercourse, cirrhosis of the liver, excessive coughing, portal hypertension, etc. It has been observed that a sedentary lifestyle, or sitting continuously for a long time can trigger the development of hemorrhoids. Obesity is another risk factor, as excess body weight puts more pressure on the rectal vein. Many women on the other hand, develop this condition during pregnancy due to hormonal fluctuations and constipation, which is a common problem encountered during this period.
Signs and Symptoms
It is not a life-threatening condition though it can cause a lot of inconvenience and pain. The common signs and symptoms of this condition are the presence of a small amount of blood or blood spots in the stool, rectal itching, and painful and incomplete bowel movements. Sometimes, the hemorrhoids can protrude from the rectal canal and become very painful.
Diagnosis and Treatment
The condition is usually diagnosed with the help of a rectal examination, which is done by inserting a lighted, thin tube-like instrument, known as anoscope, inside the rectum. Several other tests like colonoscopy or sigmoidoscopy are carried out to rule out other conditions that can be associated with rectal bleeding.
In the initial stage, physicians recommend some dietary and lifestyle modifications to treat this condition. Many people have also benefited from some common natural remedies, like hazel compress, butcher's broom, horse chestnuts, etc. In addition to these, regular physical activity can also provide some relief in this condition.
Physicians generally recommend the application of petroleum jelly, and hemorrhoidal and cortisone creams to get relief from the painful symptoms. Patients are also advised to include more fiber-rich food in the diet, and drink plenty of water to soften the stool and make its passage less painful.
If these measures fail to cure this condition, then procedures like rubber band ligation, sclerotherapy, infrared photocoagulation, laser coagulation, and hemorrhoidectomy can be required for treating this condition, especially if it causes bleeding.
In the rubber band ligation method, a small rubber band is placed at the base of the hemorrhoids. This band interrupts the supply of blood, as a result of which they shrink and fall off within four to seven days. This treatment option is employed for small to medium hemorrhoids. In sclerotherapy, a chemical solution is injected into the inflamed tissues, in order to prevent the supply of blood to the area.
Laser coagulation on the other hand, uses a laser device to apply electric currents to the affected area. This helps cut down the supply of blood to the affected area. In infrared photocoagulation method, infrared light is used to heal the inflamed tissues. As the name suggests, it causes the dilated blood vessels to clot or coagulate so that the normal blood flow to the area reduces. Surgery or hemorrhoidectomy is another option, where hemorrhoids are surgically removed by using a scalpel and a cautery device.
Along with proper treatment, it is also important to take some precautionary or preventive measures to reduce the frequency and severity of hemorrhoids. People who are suffering from this painful condition should follow a high fiber diet, drink plenty of water (usually 7 to 8 glasses), and exercise regularly. Equally important is to avoid the habit of holding back the urge to defecate, which can cause constipation and eventually piles.
Disclaimer: This Buzzle article is for informative purposes only, and should not be replaced for the advice of a medical professional.