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WHAT ARE HEMORRHOIDS

Mersad Alimoradi 20 Oct 2020
WHAT ARE HEMORRHOIDS

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Hemorrhoids are dilated and engorged veins that develop in the anus. Symptoms of hemorrhoids are anal itching, pain, bleeding, and they might make it difficult for you to sit comfortably.

Doctors classify hemorrhoids into external and external hemorrhoids depending on their exact location in the anus. External hemorrhoids are the kind that’s more likely to produce annoying symptoms.

For the most part, you can visit your family doctor or a general practitioner about your hemorrhoid. However, if any complications arise, you may be referred to a specialist, such as a gastroenterologist or a proctologist.

Although they might make you embarrassed to seek medical help, please remember that they are very common conditions which doctors see regularly, and there is a good chance most people will develop them by the age of 50. Luckily, the condition is easy to treat and different medical and surgical approaches have been developed to cure it.

What are the symptoms of hemorrhoids?

Hemorrhoids are not harmful to your overall health, however, their symptoms might become irritating. Some of the symptoms of hemorrhoids include:

  • Intense anal itching
  • Anal pain
  • Swelling and formation of lumps around your anus
  • Fecal soiling
  • Pain on defecatio
  • Bleeding, usually seen on the tissue paper after wiping

In many cases, hemorrhoids go away by themselves without any special treatment. If they persist and bleed too often, you might develop anemia.

What causes hemorrhoids?

Doctors were able to identify some factors that might increase the likelihood of developing hemorrhoids:

  • Chronic constipation or diarrhea
  • Straining during defecation
  • Prolonged sitting
  • Having a family member with hemorrhoids
  • Hereditary factors
  • Obesity
  • Chronically lifting heavy objects
  • Frequent anal intercourse
  • Pregnancy

How are hemorrhoids diagnosed?

Hemorrhoids can be diagnosed and treated by a general practitioner, gastroenterologist, or a general surgeon. Your doctor will start by asking you a few questions about your general health, family history, and medical and surgical history. He or she will then examine your anus to identify the problem. After that, your doctor will perform a “digital rectal examination”, which is a physical test in which the doctor will insert his gloved and lubricated finger into the anus to try and feel any abnormalities there. The test might be a little uncomfortable, however, it’s not painful and will only take a few seconds. This is usually enough to identify hemorrhoids and rule out any similar conditions (like anal fissures). If your physical examination is normal, your doctor might order a sigmoidoscopy to search for the cause of your symptoms. A sigmoidoscopy is a test in which a gastroenterologist inserts a scope, which is a cord-like device with a camera at its tip, into your anus to visualize your rectum and the lower part of your colon.

How are hemorrhoids treated?

On many occasions, hemorrhoids get better by themselves without any medical intervention. For those who don’t, there are several treatment options available. Doctors will start by recommending conservative therapy and home remedies, and if this fails, medical procedures and surgery might come next:

Conservative therapy

  • Topical creams: Numerous hemorrhoidal and hydrocortisone creams are available over the counter to help deal with symptoms
  • Pain killers: Hemorrhoids can be painful and off-the-counter acetaminophen or anti-inflammatory drugs like ibuprofen might help ease off the pain
  • Sitz bath: To do a sitz bath, you fill a tub or a special plastic kit with warm water and sit in it to soak your anus and perineum. Sitz baths help relieve the symptoms of hemorrhoids. You can do it once or twice daily, 10 to 15 minutes each time.
  • Cold compresses: These can help reduce the swelling and irritation
  • Fiber supplements: These can help loosen your stools and reduce trauma from hard stools
  • Micronized purified flavonoid fraction (MPFF) medications: These are oral drugs that are used to treat hemorrhoids and varicose veins. They work by restoring the normal flow to the veins that are causing the problem.

Medical procedures and surgery

These are procedures that are done at the doctor’s office or in a hospital:

  • Rubber band ligation: In this procedure, your doctor will ligate the hemorrhoids with a rubber band so that they would shrink and disappear
  • Sclerotherapy: Your doctor will inject a medication that makes hemorrhoids become smaller and cause fewer problems
  • Hemorrhoidectomy: This is the name of the surgical procedure done to remove hemorrhoids. This procedure is done in an operation room, usually with spinal anesthesia. Your doctor will cut out the hemorrhoids and close the skin with resorbable sutures.
  • Hemorrhoidopexy: This is another surgical procedure that is performed to treat hemorrhoids where the surgeon uses a stapler to staple the bulging hemorrhoids back into place

How can you prevent hemorrhoids?

By making a few adjustments to your lifestyle and diet habits, you can reduce the risk of developing hemorrhoids and control the symptoms. Most of the prevention tips revolve around avoiding straining during bowel movements. This can naturally be achieved by making your stools softer.

  • Drinking enough water: Not drinking enough water can cause hard stools.
  • Increasing fiber intake: Try eating more whole wheat foods, brown rice, fruits, nuts, and seeds. Foods high in fiber make your stools softer.
  • Go when you need to go: When you feel like you need to use the bathroom, use it as soon as you can instead of postponing.
  • Avoid sitting for a prolonged time: If you do need to sit for a long time, make sure it’s on a soft and comfy surface.

Although hemorrhoids can become annoying and painful, treatment is fairly simple. Treatment at home is usually enough to make the symptoms go away, and just in case it doesn’t, doctors can offer you some more effective options.

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About the Author:
Mersad is a medical doctor, author, and editor based in Germany. He's managed to publish several research papers early in his career. He is passionate about spreading medical knowledge. Thus, he spends a big portion of his time writing educational articles for everyone to learn.

Sources:

  • health.clevelandclinic.org/2014/05/4-simple-ways-to-prevent-hemorrhoids/
  • health.harvard.edu/newsweek/Hemorrhoids_and_what_to_do_about_them.htm
  • niddk.nih.gov/health-information/health-topics/digestive-diseases/hemorrhoids/Pages/facts.aspx
  • ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3342598/
  • mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/hemorrhoids/home/ovc-20249172
  • https://www.uptodate.com/contents/home-and-office-treatment-of-symptomatic-hemorrhoids
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