Hemorrhoids are the result of swollen and inflamed veins in the rectum and anus. When the veins swell, the walls become thin, stretched and irritated. Most likely, they are the consequence of straining when having a bowel movement. Hemorrhoids affect both genders and usually are experienced by those who suffer from constipation, the elderly, and pregnant women. Also known as piles, hemorrhoids can be internal and external of the anorectal junction. External hemorrhoids may become uncomfortable and in some instances, blood clots may form in the swollen areas. This painful condition is called thrombosis. The swelling will turn blue or yellow and may lead to blood loss. While this condition may be alarming, it is rarely medically serious. However, anal bleeding could be a sign of a life-threatening condition such as colorectal or anal cancer. Therefore, it is advisable to consult with a physician to determine the root cause of the bleeding.
In the case of hemorrhoids, the bleeding will usually resolve within a week but the pain may be unbearable. There are several symptoms that are indicative of external hemorrhoid thrombosis such as:
Swelling inside and around the anus.
Painful, sensitive or throbbing lump around the anus.
Irritation or itching around the anal area.
Occasional leaking of feces.
Painless bleeding around the anus.
Scientific research has not demonstrated a clear cause for external hemorrhoids. It appears to be linked to genetics, weak veins, lifestyle choices and age. It presents itself more in pregnant women and the elderly. It is more common in Western civilization than the East (due to toilet habits and position). Hemorrhoids are more likely to occur in those who eat processed food than those who consume a fiber-rich diet. Dehydration or inadequate intake of fluids may cause constipation and produce hard stools which could trigger external hemorrhoids.
Even though hemorrhoids tend to resolve themselves over a period of time, they can be painfully uncomfortable. Common treatments to alleviate the discomfort and prevent piles are using stool softeners, consuming more fiber and ingesting more fluids on a daily basis. Adopting warm baths, applying cold packs, utilizing topical solutions are other forms to ease the pain. Lidocaine has been the preferred pharmaceutical choice for relief but nifedipine is a more effective and newer form of treatment.
If all else fails in an acute condition, surgery may be an alternative to consider. Minimally invasive procedures are usually performed in an outpatient department of a hospital or at the doctor’s clinic. Otherwise, surgical procedures such as hemorrhoidectomy or stapling may be recommended. These are usually effective in eliminating the problem altogether.