Hemorrhoids are clumps of dilated (enlarged) blood vessels in the anus and lower rectum. The rectum is the last area of the large intestine before it exits to the anus. The anus is the end of the digestive tract where feces leaves the body.
Sometimes hemorrhoids swell when the veins enlarge and their walls become stretched, thin, and irritated by passing stool. Hemorrhoids are classified into two general categories:
At first it was something tiny. Almost nothing.
Maybe you felt just a twinge of pain or a tickle of an itch after going to the bathroom. Maybe you started to notice after a long weekend of playing hard that the water in the toilet was occasionally rosy. Maybe you just felt something back there when you were washing that was different.
Whatever it was then, it doesn’t really matter, because now it hurts. You’re seeing blood in the toilet or on the toilet paper, you’re experiencing itching, burning, and pain during and after a movement, and you’ve decided you’ve got to figure out what it is so you can make it stop. Yesterday.
When you’re constipated, some fiber supplements, particularly psyllium capsules, have a track record of helping get you more regular, which can prevent painful hemorrhoids. As far as laxatives go, they can help as long as you choose the correct ones. “The safest laxatives are those that work with your body rather than those that stimulate or simulate normal physiological activities,” Kussin says. “Some laxatives work by stimulating intestinal contraction to move the contents along. This might increase hemorrhoid pressures and cause symptoms.” To prevent hemorrhoids or to treat hemorrhoids that are active, Kussin suggests osmotic laxatives that simply increase the amount of water in the gut and reduce constipation.
Diet has a pivotal role in causing – and preventing – haemorrhoids. People who consistently eat a high-fibre diet are less likely to get haemorrhoids, but those who prefer a diet high in processed foods are at greater risk of haemorrhoids. A low-fibre diet or inadequate fluid intake can cause constipation, which can contribute to haemorrhoids in two ways: it promotes straining on the toilet and it also aggravates the haemorrhoids by producing hard stools that further irritate the swollen vein
Thanks to the highly successful campaign by Jamie Lee Curtis and her yogurt commercials, many folks already know that yogurt aids in the digestive tract with its probiotics. It comes as no surprise that this also acts as a way to keep your stool uniform and soft, so that it will not irritate any hemorrhoids present. Having a yogurt every day can really make a difference in your trips tothe bathroom.
There’s so much that fruits and vegetables can do for your digestive system, you could list hundreds of ways they help treat and prevent diseases and illnesses. Many types of produce contain healthy fiber to keep things moving and prevent hemorrhoids. Fruits and vegetables also contribute to healthy immune systems and blood flow, speeding up the recovery from having hemorrhoids. Remember to buy your produce fresh and local, if you can, they will contain the highest concentration of vitamins and nutrients.
Fruits and vegetables like:
Artichokes Broccoli and Cauliflower
Dark leafy greens Celery
First, your doctor will look at the anal area. He or she will likely also insert a lubricated gloved finger and may insert an anoscope (a hollow, lighted tube for viewing the lower few inches of the rectum) or a proctoscope (which works like an anoscope, but provides a more detailed rectal examination) into the back passage.
More procedures may be needed to identify internal haemorrhoids or rule out other conditions that may cause anal bleeding, such as anal fissure, colitis, Crohn’s disease, and colorectal cancer.
To see further into the anal canal (into the lower, or sigmoid, colon), sigmoidoscopy may be used, or the entire colon may be viewed with colonoscopy. For both procedures, a lighted, flexible viewing tube is inserted into the rectum. A barium X-ray can show the entire colon’s interior. First a barium enema is given and then X-rays are taken of the lower gastrointestinal tract.
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Here are some key points about piles. More detail and supporting information is in the main article.
Internal piles start inside your anal canal, but they might hang down and so come out your anus. Internal piles can be graded according to whether they come out your anus and – if so – how far they come out
External piles are swellings that develop further down your anal canal, closer to your anus. They can be very painful, especially if they have a blood clot in them.
External piles form small lumps on the outside edge of the anus. They are very itchy and can become painful if a blood clot develops, as the blood clot can block the flow of blood. Thrombosed external piles, or hemorrhoids that have clotted, require immediate medical treatment.
Hemorrhoids are caused by swelling in the anal or rectal veins. This makes them susceptible to irritation.
This swelling can be caused by several things, including
The following lifestyle measures can help to keep your faeces soft, preventing constipation and piles.
Piles rarely cause serious problems but they can lead to some complications, such as those below.
You may also find that your piles make you feel self-conscious (about having sex for example). If you need any advice, speak to your GP.
Internal hemorrhoids. These lie inside the rectum. You usually can’t see or feel these hemorrhoids, and they rarely cause discomfort. But straining or irritation when passing stool can damage a hemorrhoid’s surface and cause it to bleed.
Occasionally, straining can push an internal hemorrhoid through the anal opening. This is known as a protruding or prolapsed hemorrhoid and can cause pain and irritation.
External hemorrhoids. These are under the skin around your anus. When irritated, external hemorrhoids can itch or bleed.
Thrombosed hemorrhoids. Sometimes blood may pool in an external hemorrhoid and form a clot (thrombus) that can result in severe pain, swelling, inflammation and a hard lump near your anus.
Bleeding during bowel movements is the most common sign of hemorrhoids. Your doctor can do a physical examination and perform other tests to confirm hemorrhoids and rule out more-serious conditions or diseases.
Also talk to your doctor if you know you have hemorrhoids and they cause pain, bleed frequently or excessively, or don’t improve with home remedies.
Don’t assume rectal bleeding is due to hemorrhoids, especially if you are over 40 years old. Rectal bleeding can occur with other diseases, including colorectal cancer and anal cancer. If you have bleeding along with a marked change in bowel habits or if your stools change in color or consistency, consult your doctor. These types of stools can signal more extensive bleeding elsewhere in your digestive tract.
Seek emergency care if you experience large amounts of rectal bleeding, lightheadedness, dizziness or faintness.
Being constipated can make you feel sluggish and bloated, as well as making you prone to piles and other gut conditions. We should have about 25g of fibre a day – yet 8 out of 10 of us don’t get enough. To keep your colon ticking along nicely, try the following:
Unusual bowel movements, including hard stools and diarrhea, can cause the tender lining of the anus to tear. These tears are called anal fissures. In addition to constipation and diarrhea, other risk factors for fissures include having inflammatory bowel disease, being overweight or being of an advanced age.
Anal fissures are painful. They especially hurt when passing stool, and the pain can last for hours afterward. It is often experienced as a throbbing sensation.
Fissures can also itch uncomfortably. Plus, you may notice blood when you wipe or spot blood in the toilet bowl.
Hemorrhoids are often accompanied by fissures and show many of the same symptoms. . The difference between anal fissures and hemorrhoids is that they are each a different kind of injury. While an anal fissure is a tear of tissue, hemorrhoids are caused by the weakening of cushions of tissue in the lower rectum, causing the skin to blow up like a tiny balloon and fill with blood[A1] . There are two kinds of hemorrhoids – external hemorrhoids and internal hemorrhoids. Pain in the rectum is usually associated with external hemorrhoids and/or a fissure. You might also experience blood on the toilet paper after wiping, as well. In the case of internal hemorrhoids, the most common symptom is rectal bleeding. You might see bright red streaks of blood on the toilet paper or bright red blood in the water after passing a movement. You might also see streaks of blood on the stool. Hemorrhoid treatments range from creams and home remedies to hemorrhoid banding to surgery.
Ultimately, the difference between anal fissure and hemorrhoids, symptomatically, is difficult to differentiate for most persons experiencing one of these conditions. Anyone experiencing what they believe to be anal fissure or hemorrhoids should find a hemorrhoid doctor in their area. Specialists in this area are the best equipped to provide an accurate diagnosis and effective treatment for your condition, whatever it might be.
Okay, so that description certainly sounds miserable, but the faint glimmer of good news here is that hemorrhoids aren’t going to cause any direct harm to your health. They’re not related to cancer in any way (phew). The only cause for serious concern is if they’re bleeding excessively, which could lead to anemia, Grucela says, but that’s pretty rare.
All that straining and pushing increases the pressure that can lead to inflamed hemorrhoids. Treating any constipation is the second step in standard hemorrhoid treatment, Grucela says, and the easiest way to do that is getting hydrated, fast. The more parched you are, the more parched your poop is. Eating enough fiber (or taking a fiber supplement, whether in old-school powder form or newfangled gummies) helps bind water to stool. “That way, it will be softer and pass through less traumatically,” she says. The ideal: The kind of poop that glides out so effortlessly you almost don’t even need to wipe. If you’re still stopped up, constipation meds may help, Grucela says, “but most people will get better by increasing hydration and fiber.”
Also called puritis ani, anal itching it’s usually not deadly but can be intensely irritating and downright painful. Not only does the anus itch but often the skin around the anus called the perianal skin. The bad news is that in most cases doctors cannot find a cause for anal itching in their patients. The good news is that over the counter and home remedies often provide effective relief.
Known causes of anal itching include lack of bathing, hemorrhoids, parasite infestation, tumors growing in the anus or allergic reactions to soaps, medications, undergarments or personal cleansing wipes.
Below are some practical tips to help with the treatment and prevention of an itchy bottom:
Home remedies and self-care
Understanding and educating about the scratch-itch cycle is very important. The skin must be allowed to heal to reduce the irritation that causes the scratching. Avoiding irritating soaps and creams, and keeping the skin cool, dry, and clean is essential.
People who have anal itching plus bloody diarrhea or draining pus should see a doctor in a day or two. Other people should see a doctor if the itching has lasted for more than a few days, but the visit is not urgent.
The history is focused on when the itching started and how long it has lasted. Doctors ask about the following:
Hygiene habits, particularly frequency of showers and baths
Known infections or disorders (such as diabetes, hemorrhoids, or psoriasis
Recent use of antibiotics
The physical examination is focused on the appearance of the anus and the perianal skin. Doctors examine this area for
Signs of irritation due to scratching
Hemorrhoids, lesions, fistulas, and scrapes (caused by scratching and rubbing)
Bleeding from the anus can be serious if the bleeding is connected to a bowel disease or condition rather than the anus itself. These diseases/conditions include:
Your GP will help to evaluate your problem and may use the following procedures when examining you:
Following these investigations, your GP may decide to send you to a specialist who may investigate further and you may need to undergo some common tests and procedures.
This procedure is often done on prolapsed hemorrhoids, internal hemorrhoids that can be seen or felt outside. Using a special tool, the doctor puts a tiny rubber band around the hemorrhoid, which shuts off its blood supply almost instantly. Within a week, the hemorrhoid will dry up, shrink, and fall off.
With an electric probe, a laser beam, or an infrared light, your doctor will make a tiny burn to remove tissue and painlessly seal the end of the hemorrhoid, causing it to close off and shrink. This works best for prolapsed hemorrhoids.
A high-fibre diet with large amounts of water is the answer for grade I internal hemorrhoids and painless external hemorrhoids. This will soften the stool, decreasing constipation and straining. It will also allow the inflamed veins to decrease in size. There are also a number of ointments and suppositories available without prescription that can help reduce pain and inflammation around the anus. These include topical hemorrhoidal preparations that contain local anesthetics for their soothing properties. Your pharmacist can help you choose a topical application that is appropriate for your circumstances. Prescription medications can include anti-inflammatory cortisone creams.
Other useful measures include stool softeners or bulking agents, or a sitz bath, used 3 or 4 times daily for 15 minutes at a time. A sitz bath is a container filled with warm water that fits over a toilet bowl. Ice packs alternated with warm packs on the affected area can help dissolve a blood clot in an external hemorrhoid.
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Stephanie Hill is the Chief Editor of Healthy Fixation and blogs regularly on various blogs and health and fitness topics. Stephanie provides personal advice on the latest health news and recommendations on health related issues and products.