Hemorrhoid Facts

  • Hemorrhoids are one of the most common known ailments.
  • Millions of Americans currently suffer from hemorrhoids.
  • The average person suffers for a long time before seeking treatment for hemorrhoids.
  • Advances in treatment methods means some types of hemorrhoids can be treated with far less painful methods than before.

Often described as “varicose veins of the anus and rectum,” hemorrhoids are enlarged, bulging blood vessels in and around the anus and lower rectum. The rectum is the bottom section of your colon (large intestine). The tissues supporting the vessels stretch. As a result, the vessels expand, the walls thin and bleeding occurs. When the stretching and pressure continue, the weakened vessels protrude. The two types of hemorrhoids, external and internal, refer to their location.

External (outside) hemorrhoids form near the anus and are covered by sensitive skin. They are usually painless unless a blood clot (thrombosis) forms.

Thrombosed external hemorrhoids are blood clots that form in an outer hemorrhoid in the anal skin. If the clots are large, they can cause significant pain. A painful anal mass may appear suddenly and get worse during the first 48 hours. The pain generally lessens over the next few days. You may notice bleeding if the skin on top opens.

Internal (inside) hemorrhoids form within the anus beneath the lining. Painless bleeding and protrusion during bowel movements are the most common symptoms. However, an internal hemorrhoid can cause severe pain if it is completely prolapsed. This means it has slid out of the anal opening and cannot be pushed back inside.

Causes

The exact cause of hemorrhoids is unknown. A lot of pressure is put on human rectal veins due to our upright posture, which can potentially cause bulging. Other contributing factors include:

  • Aging
  • Chronic constipation or diarrhea
  • Pregnancy
  • Heredity
  • Straining during bowel movements
  • Faulty bowel function due to overuse of laxatives or enemas
  • Spending long periods of time on the toilet

Hemorrhoid Symptoms

Any of the following may be a sign of hemorrhoids:

  • Bleeding during bowel movements
  • Protrusion of skin during bowel movements
  • Itching in the anal area
  • Pain in the anal area
  • Sensitive lump(s)

Non-surgical Hemorrhoid Treatment

It is important that symptoms are checked by a colon and rectal surgeon first before you try self-treatments. They will perform a thorough examination and recommend treatment. Mild symptoms can be relieved frequently without surgery. With nonsurgical treatment, pain and swelling usually decrease in two to seven days. The firm lump should recede within four to six weeks.

Treatment includes:

  • Eating a high-fiber diet and taking over-the-counter fiber supplements (25-35 grams of fiber/day) to make stools soft, formed and bulky.
  • Avoiding excessive straining to reduce the pressure on hemorrhoids and help prevent protrusion.
  • Drinking more water to help prevent hard stools and aid in healing.
  • Taking warm tub baths (sitz baths) for 10 to 20 minutes, a few times per day to help the healing process.

References:

ASCRS