Hemorrhoids are known to be uncomfortable. Whether they show up every once in a while or on a regular basis, they’re not a condition most welcome with open arms. In fact, they make it difficult to perform basic tasks, like sitting.
Hemorrhoids, also referred to as piles, is a condition that causes anal swelling and pain. There are two types of hemorrhoids: internal, which appear within the rectum, and external, which are present around the skin of the anus.
Millions of people are diagnosed with hemorrhoids annually. Oftentimes, hemorrhoids can be self-diagnosed. By the age of 50, it’s safe to say at least half of the population are familiar with one or multiple hemorrhoid-related symptoms. Luckily, there are ways to minimize hemorrhoid symptoms and have an improved quality of life.
Common Causes of Hemorrhoids
Typically, people who develop hemorrhoids have a history of constipation. Constipation causes straining, which compromises the blood flow. Once the blood flow to and from the anal cavity is disrupted, it begins to pool, which makes the blood vessels swell. This process makes it painful and even more difficult to pass bowels.
In addition to people with constipation, pregnant women also have a higher chance of developing hemorrhoids. During pregnancy, the uterus grows to accommodate the growing fetus and puts extra pressure on their anal veins. People with higher resting anal canal tones are at risk of developing hemorrhoids.
The anal canal tone is the anal muscle that expands and contrasts enough to pass bowels. When that muscle is naturally tighter than usual, it causes additional pressure on the anus, which causes hemorrhoids.
Sometimes, hemorrhoids are a sign of aging. The connective tissues that would otherwise hold the anal muscles together begin to weaken, which causes hemorrhoids to swell and bugle from the anus.
Hemorrhoid Signs and Symptoms
Hemorrhoid symptoms are different for everyone. In some cases, people with hemorrhoids don’t experience any symptoms. For others, they may experience one or many symptoms at once. The symptoms correlate with the type of hemorrhoids someone has.
There are two main types of hemorrhoids: internal and external. External hemorrhoids are underneath the skin around the anal cavity. Internal hemorrhoids are within the rectum and rarely seen. Oftentimes, people are unaware they’re there. Internal hemorrhoids symptoms include:
- Bloody stools or blood streaks on the toilet paper after a bowel movement.
- Bumps protruding from the anal cavity
External hemorrhoid symptoms include:
- Itchiness, pain, or irritation around the anal cavity.
- Bulging bumps around the anal cavity. These bumps are either pink, blue, or purple.
When pools of blood form a clot, they create thrombosed hemorrhoids. Thrombosed hemorrhoids cause severe pain, hard anal lumps, and intense swelling. If someone experiences bloody stools of any kind, it’s advised to seek medical attention. Many people mistake rectal bleeding for hemorrhoids. A medical professional can diagnose the issue and determine whether it’s hemorrhoids or rectal bleeding, which is an underlying symptom of a more serious condition.
How to Treat Hemorrhoids
Oftentimes, lifestyle changes and over-the-counter solutions are enough to relieve hemorrhoids. Pregnant women with hemorrhoids should talk to their healthcare provider before trying any relief methods. Common relief methods include:
- Gradually increasing fiber intake (or supplements if necessary)
- Drinking plenty of fluids
- Avoiding straining during bowel movements
- Exercising to relieve pressure on veins
- Refraining from sitting down for extended periods of time
- Going as soon as possible
- Taking a sitz bath
If the symptoms don’t go away, healthcare providers may be able to do minimally invasive procedures to treat your symptoms. In severe cases, sufferers may require a hemorrhoidectomy.
Hemorrhoids are painful and irritating, however, they don't have to ruin the sufferer's quality of life. As soon as symptoms arise, it's best to seek medical assistance for a proper diagnosis. Once diagnosed, making life changes like improved diet and fluid intake help with symptom relief.
Pregnant women who experience hemorrhoids should speak to their healthcare provider about the best relief solutions to protect both her and her unborn child. By following the previously mentioned steps, hemorrhoid symptoms will drastically reduce. Even if the hemorrhoids don't go away completely, relief will definitely increase.