- Diseases, Disorders & Conditions
What are Hemorrhoids?
Basically, hemorrhoids are much like varicose veins. They're bulging blood vessels located in the rectum and anus and when left untreated can bleed and cause a tremendous amount of pain. Because our bodies need to eliminate waste and the only exit is the rectum and anus, hemorrhoids can be problematic due to the fact that they bulge so much they eventually block the schpincter; making bowel movements a dreadful task. Over half of our population will develop hemorrhoids at some point in their life.
Hemorrhoids are described as two types: internal hemorrhoids (the ones you can't see) and external hemorrhoids (the ones that you not only see, but feel). Normally, hemorrhoids are usually painless, but once a thrombosis or clot forms then the bulging vein becomes extremely sensitive to even the slightest touch. Even your undergarments rubbing against them is excrutiating. Most patients that I've interviewed over the years will say that sitting down is something they don't look forward to even after a 12 hour workday. This says a lot. But, why do patients wait so long to get medical treatment? The answer I got most of the time is that they are embarrased about them. Some of them didn't even tell their spouses that they suffered with hemorrhoids.
There is advanced medical treatment available. Surgery for hemorrhoids is a simple, same day procedure. In just a few hours you can be relieved of your symptoms. But, first lets examine what causes them.
What Causes Hemorrhoids?
Well, this question has stumped doctors everywhere because an exact cause is just not known; however, let explore some factors that contribute to hemorrhoids. The fact that humans walk upright causes pressure on our rectal blood vessels. This pressure can lead to bulging veins in the rectum. Then, there's our diets which play another huge role. For example, fiber therapy is a key to keeping our pipes from getting clogged. Most of us don't have nearly enough fiber in our diets. Remember what Benjamin Franklin once said? "An apple a day keeps the doctor away". Did he know something that no one else did? Aside from being loaded with vitamin C, apples have about 5 grams of dietary fiber which is known to keep our digestive systems regular.
Other factors that contribute to hemorrhoids are:
- Chronic constipation - we'll talk more about this
- poor habits during bowel movements - you think this doesn't contribute...it sure does!
- getting older
- lack of water intake
Exploring the Causes Further
I've spoken to so many patients who have suffered with hemorrhoids. Some of them claimed to have had them for years before seeking medical help. Unbelievable, but true. I would always put them on the spot too. The reason?...because I knew that most of them had caused their own problem. And, for most of them, the answers weren't suprising to me. I would ask questions like:
- How much water do you drink each day?
- Do you read in the bathroom while your waiting to have a bowel movement?
- Do you take Metamucil, Citrucel or any other form of fiber therapy?
- Do you eat enough vegetables and fruit?
Between work and running the kids to soccer practice or some other event who has time to sit at the table for an hour during supper time. Not many, and so it begins. Whether your a man or a woman hemorrhoids can sneak up on you if you're not careful to watch your diet. And, as we get older and the kids finally move out of the house, some people choose to eat out instead of cooking on a hot day. Eating out eventually becomes a regular thing. But, if you don't know what you're really eating then is it worth the meal price?
Eating a balanced diet is so important for colon function and overall body health. Our bodies are two thirds water and some of the patients I've spoken to say that they don't drink water. Their day is filled with caffeine, power drinks and fruit juices they get from the vending machine at work. If we know that we need to replenish the water we lose everyday with at least 64 oz then why don't we do it? Shockinly, even after having hemorrhoids removed, some patients still don't drink enough water each day.
Then there's poor bowel habits. In the 21st century it's hard to believe that people are still taking the TV guide into the bathroom. Why??? When your body signals that you need to have a bowel movement why would you prolong it by reading for 10 minutes in a position that only assists gravity in engorging your rectal blood vessels? If it takes that much effort for you to have a bowel movement then something is wrong. Don't you see the pattern? When your body signals that it's time to go...just go. If you sit and nothing happens then get up, pull your knickers back on and leave the bathroom. A bowel movement should last just a few minutes from start to finish.
And, then there's the "extra" fiber that we don't feed our bodies. Fiber powders come in a variety of flavors. They make water taste great for those of you who choose not to drink water because "it tastes plain".
Hemorrhoid surgery can vary from simple to extensive. When external hemorrhoids are engorged with blood, your surgeon may perform a simple procedure using only a local anesthetic to numb the area. This is called incision and drainage. They will make a small incision in the blood vessel to relieve the pressure. This will provide instant relief to the patient. Of course, in the event of more severe hemorrhoids then you will have the options of ligation, stapling or traditional hemorrhoidectomy which can be painful.
Ligation is also known as the rubber band method. With a small rubber band placed around the protruding hemorrhoid, blood supply is cut off and eventually the band will fall off after just a few days. The healing process takes anywhere from seven to fourteen days. With this method, a repeat procedure may be necessary for completion.
Hemorrhoidectomy simply means removing the hemorrhoids. It's the most complete method for this condition. Most of the patients that I've interviewed said that recovery was painful, but once healed they felt perfectly normal again. Hemorrhoidectomy is performed under anesthesia. The patient is given a light sedative and placed in a jackknife position. The surgeon will then cut away at the excessive tissue that is protruding. Sutures are generally used during this procedure. Post operatively, some patients will have residual bleeding during their first few bowel movements. Healing may take up to several weeks.
Stapling or procedure for prolapsing hemorrhoids is the most advanced method for treating hemorrhoids. Also performed under anesthesia, your surgeon will staple the rectum back into the proper anatomical position. By doing so, the prolapsing hemorrhoids will shrink over time. External hemorrhoids are removed and generally within a week or so the patient will be healed. Postoperatively, the patients may notice a staple or two attached to their stool. Some residual bleeding may also occur. Depending on the severity of your hemorrhoids will determine which option your surgeon will suggest for you.
But, remember that if you have mild symptoms of hemorrhoids, you may not require surgery at all. Changing your diet alone may make all the difference in the world. If you don't want to undergo surgery just yet then do yourself a favor and use the methods described in this article to improve your symptoms. They're proven methods that just might work for you too.