Hemorrhoids or piles refer to a condition wherein the veins around the anus or lower rectum get swollen and inflamed. In simple words hemorrhoids are veins that get swollen in the anal canal. The term hemorrhoids refer to 'cushions of tissue filled with blood vessels at the intersection of the rectum and the anus'. Hemorrhoids are painful but surely not dangerous or life threatening.
Hemorrhoids are common in both men and women. Almost half the population suffers from hemorrhoids when they reach 50. About 89% of Americans suffer from hemorrhoids. Hemorrhoids are very common among pregnant women. The pressure of the fetus on the abdomen and hormonal changes affect the blood vessels and force them to enlarge. These vessels experience severe pressure during childbirth thereby making hemorrhoid a common occurrence in women. In general hemorrhoids induced by pregnancy are a temporary problem in most women.
What causes hemorrhoids?
Too much pressure exerted on the veins in the pelvic and rectal area can cause hemorrhoids. Hemorrhoids can occur either inside the anus (internal) or under the skin around the anus (external). The following conditions can cause strain on the veins thus causing hemorrhoids:
Types of hemorrhoids
Internal hemorrhoids: Veins that get swollen inside the anal canal are referred to as internal hemorrhoids. Internal hemorrhoids are not very painful as there are no pain receptors in this area. Most people who have internal hemorrhoids are not even aware of having them. Internal hemorrhoids can bleed when they are irritated.
External hemorrhoids: Veins that get swollen near the opening of the anus are termed as external hemorrhoids. These hemorrhoids are at times painful and cause swelling and irritation.
Anal fissure: A thin tear in the anal area is an anal fissure. This hemorrhoid is itchy, painful and bleeds while passing stools.
Prolapsed hemorrhoids: These hemorrhoids are a type of internal hemorrhoid and they stretch down until they protrude outside the anus. This type of hemorrhoid can be painful.
Thrombosed hemorrhoids: A blood clot forms inside the external hemorrhoid thus causing thrombosed hemorrhoid. This type of hemorrhoid is very painful and can be felt as a stiff but tender mass in the anal area.
Symptoms of hemorrhoids
Although many people have hemorrhoids, not all experience symptoms. Symptoms vary based on whether the hemorrhoid is internal or external. Common symptoms for all types of hemorrhoids include:
Diagnosis of hemorrhoids
People experiencing bleeding from the rectum or blood in the stool should get a thorough examination done through the doctor. Correct diagnosis of hemorrhoids is very important as bleeding could also be a symptom of other digestive diseases or colorectal cancer. Diagnosis for hemorrhoids includes:
Common techniques followed in removal of hemorrhoids
Hemorrhoidectomy: At times severe internal or external hemorrhoids may require removal by surgery; this procedure is known as hemorrhoidectomy.
Sclerotherapy: A chemical solution is injected around the blood vessel so as to shrink the hemorrhoid.
Rubber band ligation: A rubber band is positioned inside the rectum around the bottom of the hemorrhoid. The band helps in cutting off blood circulation thereby forcing the hemorrhoid to wither away after a few days.
Infrared coagulation: A special device is used to burn hemorrhoidal tissue.
Laser coagulation: This is a new technique; electric current is applied to remove the hemorrhoids.
Interesting facts about hemorrhoids
Pregnancy makes women more prone to hemorrhoids. The main reason behind hemorrhoids in pregnant women is attributed to: