Hemorrhoids or piles are enlarged blood vessels around the anus or lower part of the rectum. These are similar to varicose veins and both are caused by elevated venous pressure due to a number of reasons. Any condition exerting increased abdominal pressure for some time can cause these. Few examples are pregnancy, chronic constipation or diarrhea, obesity, and even sitting for an increased time. Recent studies have found that genetics also play a considerable role.
How common are they?
About 10 to 23 million people in the United States are currently under treatment for piles making it a fairly common surgical disorder. According to studies, 50 percent of the total population worldwide will get some form of hemorrhoids during their lifetime. But most conditions are trivial and self-limiting, thereby often missed.
What makes the veins swell?
When you strain, the blood vessels, especially veins in the anal region become dilated and engorged but goes back after cessation. However, when you are having a condition like chronic constipation you strain for a longer time more frequently than a healthy individual making the venous bulge more permanent.
How to know if you have Hemorrhoids?
In most cases, you won’t know as internal hemorrhoids are not painful unless there is bleeding. Painless bleeding is one of the commonest symptoms that is noticed in the toilet paper or bowl. Few other frequent manifestations are given below.
- Itching with irritation of the skin around the anus.
- A lump in or protruding from anal region, occasionally painful
- Pain in the anal region during opening bowels.
- Feeling of something coming out and going back in during bowel opening.
What to do and when?
If you are having painless anal bleeding with or without other symptoms, it is a must to meet your doctor as some harrowing conditions like rectal cancer or bowel cancer can present like this. Do not try to assume that it is from a pile and avoid visiting a physician as time is invaluable in identifying and handling cancer.
The doctor will get a detailed history from you and do a physical examination including a DRE (digital rectal examination) in which a gloved well-lubricated finger will be inserted through anus for palpating any abnormalities. Also, the doctor might consider endoscopic examination using anoscope or a sigmoidoscope for direct visualization.
However, there is no reason to panic as most cases can be managed non-surgically.
What can you do at home?
- Aloe vera : The anti-inflammatory property of aloe can alleviate the symptoms drastically. Its gel can be applied on external piles. For those that are inside, frozen aloe vera (without thorns of course) can be applied as a cold compress with excellent results.
- Olive oil : It can be directly applied to the affected area. It will minimize the inflammation and improve the elasticity of engorged veins making bowel opening less painful. Monosaturated fatty acids in olive when consumed, can improve the bowel movements that will reduce the progression of piles.
- Coconut Oil : Can shrink the less severe hemorrhoids within a short time.
- Apple Cider Vinegar : Direct application can resolve the symptoms instantly
- Topical creams : Over the counter creams containing hydrocortisone (a corticosteroid) can prevent the tissue’s response to inflammation, hence alleviating the symptoms.
- Sitz bath using warm water : For relieving the itch.
- Bathe the affected area with lukewarm water and don’t use a towel or a cloth to dry, instead, a hair dryer can be used.
How to prevent them?
Lifestyle modification can prevent getting piles easily. Discussed below are few things to ponder.
- Drinking plenty of water can prevent constipation which in turn reduces the straining.
- A diet rich in fiber, 25 to 30g a day can aid the bowel movement preventing hemorrhoids.
- Do not use the stimulatory laxatives like ‘bisacodyl’ as they can elevate the lower abdominal venous pressure. Instead, osmotic laxatives (bulk-forming) like lactulose can be used safely.
- Steer clear of lifting heavy weights for obvious reasons.
- Don’t sit for too long as it can build up the anal venous pressure.
Hemorrhoids can seem distressing and embarrassing at first, yet half of us deals with them at some part of our lives. Lifestyle modifications with some over the counter drugs can be beneficial.