Important facts about hemorrhoids

Hemorrhoids are very common. Nearly 3 out of 4 people have had hemorrhoids at some point in time. They occur in the rectum and anus. Proper knowledge about the condition, its causes and symptoms help in treating or alleviating the symptoms.

Facts about hemorrhoids

What are Hemorrhoids?

hemorrhoidsHemorrhoids (also known as piles) are swelling in veins in the anal region and lower part of the rectum. Hemorrhoids may be internal (located inside the rectum) or external (developing in the skin around the anus).

They can get stretched and irritated going to the bathroom and hence may hurt.

Hemorrhoids are very common. However, most people feel ashamed to consult a doctor and wait for the condition to heal itself. It’s advisable to consult a specialist for this condition, especially if it’s recurring, rather than live with the pain and discomfort.

What are Internal Hemorrhoids?

Internal hemorrhoids occur in the inner part of the rectum so you cannot see or feel them. These internal hemorrhoids can cause bleeding while straining to pass stool. We don’t feel the internal hemorrhoids because there are only a few nerve endings inside the rectum that can sense pain.

Rarely, internal hemorrhoids can prolapse or extrude from the anus due to strain. If this occurs they become painful and visible.

What are External Hemorrhoids?

External hemorrhoids are the most common and occur around the anus causing pain and bleeding.

External hemorrhoids are the ones that we can see and they hurt while going to the toilet.

What are the Causes of Hemorrhoids?

Hemorrhoids occur when the veins around the anus stretch under pressure and bulge or swell. Typically, hemorrhoids are caused while straining during a bowel movement, sitting for too long on the toilet, or chronic constipation.

Hemorrhoids occur during pregnancy as the enlarged uterus puts pressure on anal veins. This causes the veins to swell.

Hemorrhoids can also occur due to obesity or as a result of anal intercourse. A low fiber diet can also be the cause for the formation of hemorrhoids.

Hemorrhoids bulge and prolapse faster as we age as the supporting tissues in the veins and rectum get weaker and stretch.

What are the Hemorrhoids or Piles Symptoms?

Hemorrhoids don’t always show symptoms. However, the following are the most common ones:

♦  Pain and discomfort during bowel movement.

♦  Itching and rashes around the anus

♦  Lumps around the edge of the anus which maybe painful or sensitive.

♦  Spotting of blood in the toilet or toilet paper.

What do Hemorrhoids feel like?

External hemorrhoids or prolapsed internal hemorrhoids appear as pink bumps. Sometimes, they can occur in other colors as well. Hemorrhoids contain clotted blood, hence they may also appear purple or blue. They can feel like small, moist bumps.

How long do Hemorrhoids last?

Different hemorrhoids heal at different times but small hemorrhoids disappear in a few days. If the hemorrhoids are big or prolapsed, they may take months to fully heal.

If symptoms do not go away within a week it’s advisable to consult a physician before they worsen.

When do you see a doctor for hemorrhoids?

If you notice bleeding during bowel movements it’s a sign that you should consult a doctor for a  physical examination and, if needed, some additional tests to rule out any other serious condition. It’s also advisable to consult your doctor if hemorrhoids are frequently occurring, do not subside with home remedies and cause pain, bleeding and so on.

Rectal bleeding is not necessarily a sign of hemorrhoids. Rectal bleeding can occur due to colorectal or anal cancer. If there’s significant change in bowel habits or stool color consult your doctor as this could signal extensive bleeding elsewhere (such as issues in the digestive tract).

You must seek emergency care if you experience severe bleeding, faintness or dizziness.

How are Hemorrhoids diagnosed and treated?

Hemorrhoids can be treated with ointments or rectal suppositories. However, if the hemorrhoids are advanced they may not clear up with medication and your regular physician may recommend consultation with a specialist.

The specialist is likely to do further tests and provide a diagnosis. The typical procedure involves performing a digital rectal examination to look for abnormalities. This exam involves insertion of a lubricated, gloved finger into your rectum. If abnormalities are found, additional tests called sigmoidoscopies are performed.

A sigmoidoscopy is a procedure where the doctor uses a mini camera to spot an internal hemorrhoid. The sigmoidoscope (a microscopic camera) is fitted into a small tube and inserted into the rectum. This gives a clear view of the rectum and hemorrhoids, if these exist.

Can Hemorrhoids be treated at home?

There are simple home remedies to treat hemorrhoids. These include:

1- A warm 15-minute bath taken several times a day. This relaxes the muscles and reduces swelling around the anus.

2- Apply some petroleum jelly in the affected area so that bowel movement is smooth and not painful.

3- Apply ice or cold packs to numb the area and reduce swelling.

It is nevertheless recommended that you consult a physician before trying any of the home remedies.

How to prevent Hemorrhoids

Hemorrhoids are caused mainly due to irregular bowel movement or constipation. To avoid them  eat a lot of fibre rich foods and drink lots of water.

Consider taking fiber supplements. Most individuals don’t get a sufficient amount of essential fiber through regular diet. The recommended amount is 25 gms / day for women and 38 gms for men. Studies have shown that fiber supplements improve symptoms and bleeding from hemorrhoids. Thet also help to maintain soft and regular stools

Best and Worst Foods for hemorrhoids

There are two kind of fibers your body needs- soluble and insoluble. Soluble fiber, when dissolved in water, becomes gel like. This makes stools soft and easy to pass.

Insoluble fibers don’t dissolve but help movement of food through  the body and waste out of the body. Both are required to maintain balance in the intestines.

Ingesting the right quantity of fiber is imperative. Too much causes bloating and gas. Too little contributes to constipation. It’s also important to drink plenty of fluids to aid in properly dissolving fiber. A recommended amount is around 8 to 10 8 oz. glasses per day.

Foods rich in fiber

♦  Beans, lentils, nuts. Include them in your meal at least once a day.

♦  Whole grains. Substitute white bread and pasta with versions made out of whole grain, wheat, corn to get the insoluble fibre in your diet.

♦  Oatmeal adds soluble fibre to your diet with less calories.

♦  Take no butter popcorn and oat bran.

♦  Fruit and Vegetables

You can never go wrong with a fruit and vegetable diet. Include fruit with skins (apples, pears, plums and so on). These have the insoluble fiber and also flavonoid compounds that diminish bleeding.

Colored produce like green, leafy vegetables, grapes, berries, kale etc. are very rich in flavonoids. Try to consume these raw.

If you cook your vegetables do not cook to the point they lose their natural color.

One serving of fruit contributes to 10% of daily fiber. One cup of green leafy veggies will have 4 to 5 gms of fiber.

Some fruit and vegetables contain lots of water. For instance cucumber, bell pepper, squash, watermelon and so on.

Foods to avoid for hemorrhoids

Foods with low dietary fiber content will aggravate constipation leading to hemorrhoids. So it is best to limit these types of food. They include:

♦  Bagels and white breads

♦  Dairy products, milk, cheese and so on.

♦  Meat

♦  Processed food of any kind like fast food and frozen food.

Exercise regularly to keep the body in shape, improve digestion and maintain colon regularity.  Physical activity prevents weight gain and overly extended hours of sitting that contribute to hemorrhoids.

Listen to your body. Do not delay going to the bathroom as this leads to stools becoming dry and hard to pass. Do not strain overly during a bowel movement as this creates greater pressure in veins and in the rectum.

Avoid long periods of sitting. Sitting for a long time (especially on the toilet) brings pressure on the veins in the anus.

Hemorrhoids are a difficult condition to live with and can be prevented or kept under control with a few easy lifestyle changes. Drink lots of water, eat a fiber rich diet, exercise, and don’t sit in one position for an extended period of time. These simple adjustments to lifestyle go a long way in keeping painful hemorrhoids at bay.

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