Hemorrhoids are something we hear a lot about, but what are they? The easiest definition is that a hemorrhoid is a vein in the anus (external hemorrhoid) or rectum (internal hemorrhoid) that is stretched and has become swollen and irritated. Like varicose veins in our legs, these veins can be under too much pressure from other factors in our bodies, and cause discomfort.
Hemorrhoids can be caused by several different things, although they all have one thing in common-stress on the veins in the anal/rectal region. Pregnancy, heavy lifting, frequent constipation and diarrhea, poor diet, lack of fiber, sitting (particularly on the toilet) for extended periods of time, and age are all causes of hemorrhoids.
Pregnancy is stress on a woman’s whole body, particularly their lower region. Heavy lifting tends to flex the hips’ area, and in turn stresses the anal/rectal veins.
Frequent constipation, diarrhea, and sitting on the toilet for extended periods all put strain deliberately on those veins, without support, causing them to weaken. Poor diet and a lack of fiber leads to constipation and diarrhea.
And as we age, we will undoubtedly begin to wear out our veins, especially if we have been unhealthy for a while.
How to know…
So how do you know if you have a hemorrhoid? The most common way is bleeding after a bowel movement. While not the only cause of bleeding in the toilet, if you find yourself wiping up some bright red after a bowel movement for a week or so, you likely have an internal hemorrhoid.
If there’s a burning, itching, or painful/sore sensation around the same area of your anus, you likely have an external hemorrhoid. If you notice a vein popping out of your anal canal, it’s probably a prolapsed internal hemorrhoid, where the bulging vein ended up outside of the body and is now painful.
If you know you have an external hemorrhoid, but it’s got a hard lump, it’s a thrombosed hemorrhoid, where blood has pooled and clotted, and is now causing extreme pain, swelling, and inflammation.
While all hemorrhoids are uncomfortable, external are usually more painful because they’re closer to the sensitive nerves around the lower region of genitals, and can actually erode the skin. However, if you’re bleeding excessively or feeling dizzy, it’s important to get to the doctor immediately. It could be a more complicated hemorrhoid, and generally complicated translates to dangerous.
Most hemorrhoids aren’t dangerous, but they are very uncomfortable. So what treatments for hemorrhoids are available? There are both over-the-counter treatments to alleviate pain and medical options to take care of the problem more permanently.
Home treatment for hemorrhoids are all over the counter options. The most well-known are probably ointments, which are applied directly to the area and have a numbing agent, like hydrocortisone or witch hazel, for itching or burning.
There are also medicated wipes that have a similar effect, but when using these it’s important to not rub too hard, which will just stress the vein out more and make the problem worse.
Like with most pain, you can also take over the counter painkillers and use an ice pack, and even soak the region in a few inches of warm water (sometimes called a sitz bath).
The most important home action you can take for treatment of hemorrhoids and prevention is to make a positive lifestyle change. Likely, the hemorrhoid is the result of firm stool, so to keep it soft, eat well with lots of fiber, and exercise so your body is stronger.
If an at home treatment isn’t going to work for you, there are of course more medical options. There are a few out patient options, where the blood flow to the hemorrhoid is cut off either with a band (rubber band ligation) or an injection (sclerotherapy), or a clot is formed on purpose with infrared, photocoagulation or electrocoagulation. For full surgery, hemorrhoidectomies will remove the vein and a hemorrhoidopexy will staple it out of the way.
The easiest way to treat and prevent a hemorrhoid is the same: healthy living. By ensuring you’re ingesting enough fiber, through food or fiber supplements, and making sure you take care of how much your body strains, you can prevent and treat hemorrhoids.
We’re hoping that this has helped in some way. If you ever need a hand or have any questions, feel free to leave them in the comment section and we will be more than happy to help you out as much as we can.
Mayo Clinic, Harvard Health Publishing, Medical News Today
Categorised in: Blog
All the best,
Jacy and Ryan (TMD Team)