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What causes Hemorrhoids? Symptoms, Risk Factors, Treatment

Updated on February 17, 2014

Hemorrhoids refer to the clusters of swollen veins present either inside the rectum or anus. Some experience having them at some point of their lives, while for others, these have become a recurrent painful disturbance. Affected individuals often complain about itching, bleeding and rectal pain. Generally, this is a common complain among middle-aged individuals.

Treatment for hemorrhoids helps alleviate the symptoms as well as prevent future flare ups. Patients find their condition has dramatically improved with the appropriate lifestyle changes and homecare treatments. Those who have persistent piles may require a more invasive treatment.

Cause of hemorrhoids

Hemorrhoids or piles occur as a result of increased pressure on the veins within the rectal and pelvic region. The anus houses lots of blood vessels which prevent gas, mucus and bowel movements from leaking to the rectum. The increased pressure on these veins causes them to swell and eventually drop out of the rectal wall, resulting in hemorrhoid.

Several things can cause this to happen and these are:

  • Pregnancy

  • Constipation and diarrhea

  • Obesity

  • Anal intercourse and infections

  • Straining bowel movements

  • Prolonged sitting

In addition, certain diseases have been found to cause hemorrhoids, and liver cirrhosis is one of them. Hemorrhoid could also result due to aging as the tissues supporting the veins in the anal and rectal areas also age.

Hemorrhoids are classified into two based on the area on which they occur. If the veins inside the rectal wall swell, they are referred to as internal hemorrhoids. If the veins in the anus are the ones inflamed, they are classified as external hemorrhoids.

People at risk of hemorrhoids

Statistics showed that hemorrhoids occur more frequently among older people. This is because the supporting capabilities of the tissues in the rectal and anal areas weaken with old age. It has been found that pregnant women also suffer from the condition due to the added pressure caused by the growing fetus as well as the raging hormones. Childbirth also contributes to the development of hemorrhoids. Meanwhile, truck drivers, children and adolescents are affected by hemorrhoids as well due to sitting for prolonged periods of time, sedentary lifestyle and unhealthy eating habits.

Hemorrhoids have been found to affect around 75% of the entire population between 45 and 65 years old. Even prominent people have been known to suffer from hemorrhoids, with the likes of George Brett, President Jimmy Carter and Napoleon Bonaparte.

Symptoms of hemorrhoids

Symptoms quite differ among people who have internal and external hemorrhoids. Those who have internal hemorrhoids will have streaks of bright blood in their stool or on the toilet paper. They cannot be felt or seen or cause any discomfort because they are located inside the rectum. However, sufferers only feel pain once the hemorrhoid have prolapsed or protruded down to the anus. On the other hand, individuals who have external hemorrhoids will notice a hard and painful lump protruding in their anal opening. This can cause rectal bleeding during bowel movement.

Rectal bleeding is a hallmark of hemorrhoids, but it could also mean a more serious medical disorder like cancer. That is why affected individuals should seek medical advice to rule out any other underlying medical conditions. This is especially true if rectal bleeding comes with other alarming symptoms such as dizziness, faintness, lightheadedness and abnormal bowel movement.

Diagnosis of hemorrhoids

Depending on the type of hemorrhoid the individual is suffering from, diagnosis may involve physical exam and diagnostic tests. The doctor may just conduct a physical examination to people with external hemorrhoids. However, he or she may order further diagnostic tests for those who have internal hemorrhoids. Among these tests are digital rectal exam, anoscopy and sigmoidoscopy. If the doctor suspects that the individual is suffering from some kind of digestive disorder or other serious medical condition, he or she may conduct colonoscopy.

The chances of recovery from hemorrhoids are normally good, even for those who opt for less invasive treatment or surgical procedures. The condition is not dangerous and rarely results to complications like anemia due to chronic loss of blood or become strangulated hemorrhoid which could eventually result to gangrene.

Treatment of hemorrhoids

Treatment helps sufferers manage the bothersome symptoms of hemorrhoids. Patients will find that their symptoms improve with simple homecare treatments like:

  • Increasing fiber and water intake

  • Engaging in regular exercise

  • Avoiding postponing defecation

  • Getting sitz baths

  • Topical treatments

Should hemorrhoids do not get resolved after trying homecare treatments, there are surgical procedures to choose from.

  • Blood clot removal

This is a less invasive surgical procedure to remove blood clot that has developed in external hemorrhoid. Blood clot causes excruciating pain and removing it will provide relief.

  • Rubber band ligation

As the name implies, a small elastic rubber band is used to interrupt the circulation and growth of internal hemorrhoid.

  • Hemorrhoidectomy

This procedure is the complete removal of hemorrhoids which could be done under local or general anesthesia.

  • Hemorrhoid stapling

This surgical procedure involves blocking the blood flow into the hemorrhoidal tissue.


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