The term hemorrhoids often has the connotation of being embarrassing. After all, it is visually connected to toilets and bowel movements. It’s right up there with gonorrhea, herpes, or AIDS. That is why people try to substitute it with the word “piles”. It’s not as embarrassing, and it sure does not bring up images of someone hunched up in a toilet, with their face screwed up in pain and agony.
Piles or hemorrhoids, is a common condition especially among older people. These are inflamed and swollen veins in your rectum and anus, although in reality, it’s a bit more complicated than that. Hemorrhoids are masses of tissue or “cushions” within your anal canal that contains a rich network of arteries that communicate with each other around the canal, and supporting tissue of muscle and elastic fibers. When one of these “cushions” slip downwards because the supporting tissue is not holding it properly, then the arteries and blood vessels in the tissue become engorged with blood. The bulging mass of tissue and blood can then protrude into the anal canal and cause problems.
Problems Piling Up
The exact cause why hemorrhoids become enlarged is not known, although there are several theories being bandied about by the professionals, including insufficient intake of fiber, chronic constipation, and prolonged sitting on the toilet. It should be noted that none of these theories have any strong experimental backup. Pregnancy is one of the clearest cause of enlarged hemorrhoids although the underlying reason why this is so is still not yet clear. Tumors in the pelvis can also cause hemorrhoid enlargement by pressing against the veins that drain upwards to the canal.
Another theory on why the cushion slips downward is because of the shearing force of the stool as it gets excreted, particularly if the stool is hard and there isn’t much lubrication, like during constipation. Old age is also being put forward; as you grow older, the supporting tissue that helps anchor the cushion in place deteriorates. In time, the hemorrhoidal tissue loses its grip and slides down.
There are two main types of hemorrhoids with different symptoms. To summarize, they are:
- Internal hemorrhoids. These hemorrhoids cannot be seen or felt, because they occur inside the rectum, at the superior rectal arteries. Since this area lacks pain receptors, internal hemorrhoids are usually not painful and people who suffer from them are usually not aware that they have the condition at all. However, a strain or irritation such as that caused by a passing stool usually causes it to bleed, resulting in small amounts of bright red blood on your feces.
- External hemorrhoids. These are mostly painful and oftentimes accompanied by irritation and swelling. Since the skin is irritated, itching is also a common occurrence. Like internal hemorrhoids, external hemorrhoid also causes bleeding. They are also prone to thrombosis.
Getting Rid of Piles
In most cases, hemorrhoids are just temporary, and usually heal by themselves as quickly as they manifest. There is no specific medicine to cure hemorrhoids but there are some steps you can take in order to lessen the discomfort.
- Keep the area clean. Keep the area around your anus clean with warm water to get rid of mucus that leaks out. Don’t use soap; it will only exacerbate the irritation (Tips on how to get rid of mucus). When drying, use cotton wool or dry the area with a hair dryer to minimize moisture, which can also cause irritation.
- Use creams and topical ointments. There are over-the-counter hemorrhoid creams and ointments you can apply on your skin in order to lessen the irritation and itching. Find those with hydrocortisone, or use pads that have witch hazel or some numbing agent.
- Soak regularly in a warm bath. Warm baths will help ease or relieve the itching and swelling in the affected area, as well as clean the area from any mucus and irritants. Do this several times a day to get maximum effect.
- Don’t use dry toilet papers. Instead, try using wet towelettes or soft toilet papers. Make sure that these do not contain any perfume or alcohol since they can aggravate your condition. Also, when cleaning, make sure to dab rather then wipe.
- Eat lots of fiber and plenty of fluids. Constipation is a main aggressor of hemorrhoids. Prevent constipation by eating lots of fruits and vegetables, as well as brans. Fiber helps in easing the passage of stool out of your anus. Fluids contribute to this function as well.
- Avoid long periods of sitting and standing. Get up, walk around and exercise. Sitting too long puts pressure on the veins of your anus. Exercising can also help shed off extra pounds that may be contributing to your hemorrhoids.
- Avoid straining. Straining while trying to pass stool can create pressure on the veins of the lower rectum.
If these home and lifestyle remedies are not doing anything to help alleviate the problem, then you might want to try medical solutions like:
- Banding. Also known as rubber band ligation, this includes the application of rubber bands on the internal hemorrhoid to cut off its blood supply. In a few days, the withered hemorrhoid falls off during normal bowel movement.
- Sclerotherapy. The doctors injects a chemical solution around the hemorrhoid that causes the veins to collapse and shrivel up the hemorrhoid.
- Hemorrhoidectomy. It’s the surgical procedure to excise and remove the hemorrhoids.
- Infrared light. Short bursts of infrared light are used to cut off circulation to small internal hemorrhoids.
There are many choices to choose from to relieve hemorrhoids (Tips on how to relieve hemorrhoids). As always, consult with your doctor to agree on the best solution. Before long, you won’t have to suffer this embarrassing condition anymore. You may also be interested in reading about home remedies for constipation.
Click here for more information on how to get rid of piles.