Hemorrhoid Causes and Treatment

Hemorrhoids, or piles as they are also sometimes called, can occur very suddenly or build up over many years.

Around the anus is a circular vein, close to the skin surface. The anal canal is about 2cm long, and at the inner end of the canal, another vein circles around it, close to the surface. When a motion is passed, the anal canal dilates to let it pass. If this dilation is excessive due to constipation, these fine veins can be stretched, then rupture and form piles. Hemorrhoids may appear as an intermittent, painless swelling beside the anus, or they can be excruciatingly tender and painful, and bleed profusely. If the outer vein ring is damaged, an external hemorrhoid results; if the inner vein ring is damaged, an internal hemorrhoid is formed. Once a hemorrhoid has developed, a weak area will always be present, and even though one attack may settle, the same hemorrhoid may flare up time after time.

The best treatment for this distressing problem is prevention. There are two chief causes of hemorrhoids: hard large motions, and straining with heavy lifting. Hemorrhoids are a common complaint amongst Olympic weight-lifters. Women can also get them in labor from pushing the baby out.

Keeping the bowels regular and soft is the most important preventive measure. This involves diet and habit. The diet should be high in fiber (bulk), and low in refined foods such as sweets, cakes, white bread and sugar. High-fiber foods include unrefined cereals, wholemeal breads, green vegetables, fruit and unpolished rice. The habit of opening the bowels at a regular time each day, and not suppressing the urge to pass a motion, will also ensure that no extra stress is put on those fine veins around the anus. Once piles are present, it is even more vital to prevent further stresses to the sensitive area.

Treatment of hemorrhoids follows several steps. Initially, the soothing creams available over the counter from chemists can be used, but if relief is not rapidly obtained, assistance should be sought from your general practitioner.

After examining the area to determine exactly what damage has occurred, the doctor will prescribe appropriate treatment. This usually takes the form of anti-inflammatory (e.g. steroid) and antiseptic creams that can be used directly on the hemorrhoids, and soothing suppositories. These are bomb shaped tablets that are inserted through the anus into the rectum, where they dissolve to help internal piles. If there is a clot of blood in the dilated hemorrhoid, it may be cut open to allow the congealed blood to escape. Although momentarily painful, this is usually followed by significant relief.

If the hemorrhoids fail to settle after simple treatments, further intervention is necessary. This can vary from simply clipping a rubber band around the base of the pile, to a full scale operation to cut away part of the anal canal. Hemorrhoids may also be injected or electrically coagulated. The operation can be rather uncomfortable and painful for some days afterwards, so more conservative measures are used whenever possible. If an operation is necessary, it is normally successful in permanently removing the problem.

Although rarely serious, piles can be a distressing condition and should be treated sooner rather than later. If the appropriate creams and suppositories are used soon enough, it may be possible to avoid surgery for many years.

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