Haemorrhoids: Understanding the Common and Painful Disorder
Haemorrhoids, commonly known as “piles,” is a very common, painful, and irritating disorder that affects around 60-70% of people at some point in their lives. An estimated 1 in 20 Americans have symptomatic haemorrhoids. In this article, we’ll take a look at what haemorrhoids are, who is at risk of developing them, and the signs and symptoms to look out for.
What are Haemorrhoids?
Haemorrhoids are swollen, enlarged veins that form inside and outside the anus and rectum. They can be painful, uncomfortable, and can even cause bleeding. The rectum and anus have a rich supply of blood vessels, and sometimes these veins get swollen and enlarged due to various reasons, resulting in haemorrhoids. They can happen inside or outside the rectum, and the type depends on where the swollen veins develop. Based on this, they can be classified as internal, external, or prolapsed haemorrhoids.
Internal haemorrhoids consist of swollen veins that form inside the rectum. These haemorrhoids may bleed, but they usually aren’t painful. External haemorrhoids form underneath the skin around the anus and can be itchy and painful. They may occasionally bleed, and sometimes fill with blood that can clot, resulting in a lot of pain, swelling, and discomfort. Both internal and external haemorrhoids can prolapse, which means they can stretch and bulge outside of the anus.
Who is at Risk of Developing Haemorrhoids?
Anyone can get symptomatic haemorrhoids, even teenagers. However, certain factors can increase the risk of developing haemorrhoids. These include:
- Being overweight or obese
- Poor dietary choices like eating a low-fibre, high-carb diet
- Habits like lifting heavy objects, spending a lot of time sitting on the toilet, and straining while having bowel movements.
Signs and Symptoms of Haemorrhoids
Internal haemorrhoids rarely cause pain (and typically can’t be felt) unless they prolapse. Many people with internal haemorrhoids don’t even know they have them, because they don’t have symptoms. However, if you have symptomatic internal haemorrhoids, you might see blood on the toilet paper, in the stools, or in the toilet bowl. These are signs of rectal bleeding.
In the case of external haemorrhoids, symptoms may include:
- An itchy anal area
- Hard lumps near the anus that feel sore or tender
- Pain in the anal region, especially when you sit
- Rectal bleeding
Prolapsed haemorrhoids can be painful. You may be able to feel them bulging outside the anus.
Haemorrhoids can be uncomfortable and painful, but they don’t tend to cause serious problems. Rarely, people with haemorrhoids develop anaemia, blood clots in external haemorrhoids, infection, or skin tags in the anal region.
Diagnosis and Treatment
Haemorrhoids can be diagnosed based upon symptoms and a physical examination. Some simple tests can also be done like a digital rectal examination, in which a doctor inserts a gloved, lubricated finger into the rectum to feel for swollen veins. An anoscopy procedure can also be done, in which a doctor uses an “anoscope,” which is a light.
What are haemorrhoids?
Haemorrhoids are swollen, enlarged veins that form inside and outside the anus and rectum. They can be painful, uncomfortable, and can even cause bleeding.
Who is at risk of developing haemorrhoids?
Anyone can get symptomatic haemorrhoids, even teenagers. However, certain factors such as being overweight or obese, pregnancy, poor dietary choices, and habits like lifting heavy objects and straining while having bowel movements can increase the risk of developing haemorrhoids.
What are the signs and symptoms of haemorrhoids?
Internal haemorrhoids rarely cause pain (and typically can't be felt) unless they prolapse. External haemorrhoids can cause an itchy anal area, hard lumps near the anus that feel sore or tender, pain in the anal region, especially when you sit, and rectal bleeding. Prolapsed haemorrhoids can be painful and may be felt bulging outside the anus.
How are haemorrhoids diagnosed?
Haemorrhoids can be diagnosed based upon symptoms and a physical examination. Simple tests like a digital rectal examination and an anoscopy procedure can also be done to diagnose haemorrhoids.
How are haemorrhoids treated?
Treatment options for haemorrhoids include self-care measures such as increasing fiber and fluid intake, avoiding prolonged sitting, and using over-the-counter creams and ointments. In more severe cases, doctors may recommend other treatments such as rubber band ligation, sclerotherapy, infrared coagulation, or surgery.