By Dr. Donna Powell & Dr. Renee M. Marchioni Beery at Gastro MD
Hemorrhoids are varicose veins in the lower rectum and anus. There are two main types of hemorrhoids – internal hemorrhoids and external hemorrhoids.
Internal hemorrhoids are found inside the rectum. While painless, internal hemorrhoids tend to bleed, and people discover them when they notice small amounts of bright red blood in the toilet with toilet paper. Prolapsed hemorrhoids are a more severe form of internal hemorrhoids. With prolapsed hemorrhoids, veins push through the anus and are outside the body, most often due to straining while going to the bathroom.
External hemorrhoids occur under the skin around the anus and may cause pain or discomfort. Because there is swelling around the anus, it will cause itching or irritation; there may also be some bleeding. Thrombosed Hemorrhoids are a severe form of external hemorrhoids which can be very painful; these occur when blood pools in the external hemorrhoid, forming a clot and hard, swollen lump near the anus.
Preventing, Diagnosing, and Treating Hemorrhoids
The leading causes of hemorrhoids include straining on the toilet, extra weight, pressure on the bowels, and chronic constipation or diarrhea. You are also at higher risk of hemorrhoids if you are overweight, regularly lift heavy objects, and eat a low-fiber diet. Therefore, changing your diet, lifestyle, and bathroom habits are vital in helping prevent hemorrhoids.
If you suspect that you have hemorrhoids, it’s essential to have your condition properly diagnosed and treated so you can avoid potential complications. While complications are rare, hemorrhoids may cause infection, skin tags, anemia, blood clots, or worsen into strangulated hemorrhoids.
Hemorrhoids can be diagnosed based on your symptoms and a physical exam, including a Digital Rectal Exam, anoscopy, or sigmoidoscopy. Once diagnosed, your doctor will likely prescribe something for pain and inflammation. You can drink more water to ease symptoms, which will help you avoid straining when using the bathroom, allowing you to pass stool more easily. Your doctor may also recommend taking laxatives if you suffer from constipation and increasing your fiber intake. To soothe discomfort and itchiness, soak in a sitz bath for 10-20 minutes daily.
When home treatments or diet changes don’t work and symptoms worsen to the point that they cause severe pain or interfere with daily life, your doctor may advise treatments like Rubber Band Ligation, electrocoagulation, infrared coagulation, or Sclerotherapy. There are also surgical treatments for hemorrhoids, such as Hemorrhoidectomy, which removes prolapsed hemorrhoids or large external hemorrhoids. Another surgical procedure for hemorrhoids is Hemorrhoid Stapling, which involves a stapling instrument that can pull a prolapsed hemorrhoid back into the anus and hold it in place or remove an internal hemorrhoid.
It’s important to know that some symptoms indicating hemorrhoids are similar to other conditions, such as bowel diseases like Crohn’s Disease, ulcerative colitis, and colon cancer. If you suspect that your symptoms aren’t hemorrhoids but something else, consult your healthcare provider. Contact Gastro MD is a cutting-edge clinical gastroenterology practice that sets the standard in digestive health care.