No one likes talking about hemorrhoids in everyday conversation, and it is common to feel embarrassed about them. However, it is important not to let this feeling prevent you from seeking proper medical care. Understanding what hemorrhoids are will help you as a patient realize that there is nothing to be embarrassed about so you can seek the diagnosis and treatment you need.
What Are Hemorrhoids?
Simply put, hemorrhoids (or piles) are swollen veins in your anus and lower rectum. They can be caused by a variety of factors such as:
- Straining while on the toilet
- Low-fiber diet
Hemorrhoids are very common, affecting about 75% of adults at some point in their lives. There are two classifications of hemorrhoids:
- Internal hemorrhoids are inside the rectum and rarely cause pain or discomfort. They can bleed if strained or irritated, and can become prolapsed when strained.
- External hemorrhoids are under the skin around the anus that can itch and bleed.
What Are The Symptoms?
Hemorrhoids are typically self-indentifiable, but it is important that you have a doctor confirm a diagnosis. Symptoms can vary from person to person and some may experience no symptoms at all; however, some common symptoms include:
- Painless bleeding during bowel movements
- Itching or irritation around the anus
- Pain or discomfort
- Pink, purple, or blue colored bumps around or protruding from the anus
- Painful bowel movements
Your doctor will conduct an exam to diagnose hemorrhoids and rule out other conditions that may be causing your symptoms by performing a digital rectal exam (DRE) and an anoscopy. Once hemorrhoids have been identified, your doctor will discuss treatment options with you.
What Are The Treatment Options?
You can alleviate the symptoms of hemorrhoids at home with a variety of methods such as:
- Being sure to eat high-fiber foods and drink plenty of water
- Soaking in a warm sitz bath for 10 to 15 minutes per day
- Using a cold compress to reduce swelling
- Practicing good anal hygiene and not using soap, or rough or dry toilet paper
- Using topical treatments like hemorrhoid creams
If the above treatments do not help, your doctor may recommend rubber band ligation. This procedure is a non-surgical option where your doctor will use a special tool called a hemorrhoid litigator to place a rubber band around the base of the hemorrhoid. This cuts off blood flow to the area, which causes the banded tissue to die and eventually fall off.
This method is considered the gold standard for hemorrhoid treatment, as it requires no sedation, bowel preparation, or a long recovery.
Hemorrhoids are a common condition, and you should not feel embarrassed about seeking medical attention. Don’t suffer any more than you have to; speak to a doctor about your treatment options today.