If the swelling occurs inside the anal canal, it is referred to as internal hemorrhoid and if the veins swell near the opening of the anus, it forms external hemorrhoid. It is possible to have both types at the same time.
Increased pressure on the veins of anal canal is the primary cause of hemorrhoids. The most common causes include chronic constipation, junk food, decreased intake of water, and low-fiber diet. Pregnant women are also found to have hemorrhoids during last 6 months of pregnancy. Besides that, being overweight may lead to hemorrhoids.
The most common symptoms of both types of hemorrhoids include:
- Bleeding during bowel movements
- Pain in rectum or anus
External hemorrhoids are easily diagnosed by the patient himself/herself. Patients suffering from internal hemorrhoids may see bright red blood streaks on toilet paper or on the surface of the stool. If you are having any of these symptoms, you may see your doctor as soon as possible because it can be a sign of a serious problem such as diverticulitis, colon cancer, rectal cancer, or anal cancer.
If you are diagnosed with hemorrhoids, you must avoid making hemorrhoids worse. After bowel movements, blot the anus gently with toilet paper moistened with cleansing agent such as Balneol. Remember not to use soaps that contain perfumes or dyes.
If the hemorrhoids are swollen and very painful, you can use over-the-counter pain relievers such as Acetaminophen, or you can also use nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like Naproxen and Ibuprofen. Applying the ice several times a day for 10 minutes on the affected area followed by a warm compress for another 10 minutes relieves the itching and pain. Sitz bath is also found to be very helpful.
Hemorrhoids don't usually go away completely, once developed, unless you undergo proper treatment. The first and most important phase of the treatment is "diet change". High-fiber foods are recommended for the people suffering from hemorrhoids. High-fiber foods include Split peas, Lentils, Black beans, raspberries, etc.
A combination of high-fiber diet, sitz baths, and Acetaminophen (Tylenol) is initially recommended by most of the doctors. If this therapy doesn't provide the beneficial results and the symptoms persist, doctor recommends one of the following procedures:
- Sclerotherapy or Injection: A chemical solution is injected into the hemorrhoids, which relieves the pain by numbing the pain receptors and sensory nerve endings. It also causes the sclerosis (hardening of the tissues) of the hemorrhoids which result in scar formation. After a certain period of time, the hemorrhoids reduce in size.
- Rubber band ligation of internal or external hemorrhoid can be done which instantly cuts of the blood supply of the hemorrhoid. This causes the hemorrhoid to shrivel and fall off.
- An infrared light, a laser beam, or an electric probe, are the modern technologies which painlessly seal the end of the hemorrhoid, causing it to close off and shrink. This procedure is usually used for prolapsed hemorrhoids.
- Surgery is the best treatment so far for external hemorrhoids that cause discomfort or are large in size. All the other procedures have high risk of recurrence. Most of the patients suffering from hemorrhoids are eventually treated with surgery. Surgery of hemorrhoids is called hemorrhoidectomy which is performed under local anesthesia. Surgery is so far considered to be the best treatment option for the hemorrhoids that produce severe discomfort.
If the initial treatment fails and the symptoms persist, you are suggested to visit colorectal surgeon. This is because most of the cases of hemorrhoids eventually require surgery. This surgery is totally safe and is not known to cause any severe complications.
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