Hemorrhoids are a condition where the veins around the anus or lower rectum are swollen or inflamed (hot, red, tender and/or swollen). They often result from:
- frequent constipation or diarrhea
- straining to have a bowel movement
- pregnancy (These usually go away afterwards)
- anal intercourse
Some hemorrhoids, which can be felt with the finger as a swelling or swellings around the anus and are called external hemorrhoids. Others, which cannot be felt or seen without an instrument because they are hidden in the anal canal, are called internal hemorrhoids.
Risk Factors – The following situations and practices increase a person’s risk of getting hemorrhoids:
- eating mostly meat and refined foods
- not eating enough fiber – whole grains like bran, wheat, rye breads and cereals, and fruits and vegetables
- often taking laxatives
- often postponing bowel movements
Signs and Symptoms – Sometimes, people with small hemorrhoids don’t even know they have them. However, with larger hemorrhoids, the signs and symptoms can include:
- bright red blood on the stool or feces
- bright red blood on the toilet paper or in the toilet
- severe pain, swelling or itching around the anus
- a hard lump around the anus, which is the result of a blood clot.
Diagnosis – Be sure to see a doctor to get an accurate diagnosis because there are other anal diseases. He or she will probably use an anoscope (a lighted tube to examine the anus) or a proctoscope (a lighted tube that is useful for examining the entire rectum).Longer lighted tubes may be used to examine the lower colon (sigmoidoscopy) or more of the colon or large intestine (colonoscopy).
Treatment – The first approach to treatment is to see a doctor. He or she will probably start by helping to decrease the discomfort through such measures as having the affected person:
- take tub baths in warm water for about 10 minutes several times a day
- use a hemorroidal cream or suppository for a limited period of time
- eat enough fiber and drinking 6 to 8 glasses of non-alcoholic fluid daily in order to have softer, bulkier bowel movements.
- exercise daily – remember that walking is a great form of exercise
- Some doctors may suggest a stool softener or fiber supplement.
In some cases, a procedure may be necessary to remove or reduce the hemorrhoids such as surgery, shrinkage through chemical injection (called sclerotherapy), and burning the tissue (called infrared coagulation).