Hemorrhoids

Hemorrhoids are swollen blood vessels in and around the anus and lower rectum. They stretch under pressure and are similar to varicose veins in the legs. Hemorrhoids are either internal or external.

  • Causes

    The exact cause of hemorrhoids is unknown. The major contributing factor appears to be too much pressure on the veins in the rectum. If the pressure continues, the veins become enlarged and protrude.

  • Definition

    Hemorrhoids are swollen blood vessels in and around the anus and lower rectum. They stretch under pressure and are similar to varicose veins in the legs. Hemorrhoids are either internal or external.

    • Internal hemorrhoids develop inside the anus. They are painless and sometimes bleed a lot during bowel movements. They may also protrude during bowel movements. If they protrude from the anal opening and cannot be pushed back, they can cause severe pain.
    • External hemorrhoids develop under the skin around the anus and can easily be felt or seen as a lump. They bleed when broken by straining, rubbing, or scratching.
    Hemorrhoids
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  • Diagnosis

    The doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done. Your anus and rectum will be examined to look for swollen blood vessels. A digital rectal exam will be done. This is done by inserting a gloved, lubricated finger into the rectum to feel for abnormalities. Sometimes, it is necessary to do the exam with the use of an endoscope that allows the rectal canal and other parts of the colon to be viewed.

    Bleeding from the rectum or blood in the stool can be a symptom of other diseases involving gastrointestinal tract or colon/rectal cancer. It is important to see a doctor if you have any rectal bleeding.

  • Prevention

    The best way to prevent hemorrhoids is to keep stools soft so they pass easily. The following practices can help:

    • Eat a high fiber diet.
    • Exercise regularly.
    • Empty bowels as soon as possible after the urge occurs.
    • Avoid the overuse of laxatives.

  • Risk Factors

    Factors that increase your risk of getting hemorrhoids include:

    • Straining when trying to pass a stool
    • Chronic constipation or diarrhea
    • Sitting on the toilet for long periods of time
    • Pressure on the veins from pregnancy and childbirth
    • Increased age
    • Obesity
    • Family members with hemorrhoids
    • Chronic cough
    • Liver disease
    • Chronic use of enemas or laxatives

  • Symptoms

    In most cases, symptoms will go away within several days. Although many people have hemorrhoids, not all experience symptoms.

    Common symptoms include:

    • Bleeding from the anus that may appear:

      • On the stool
      • On the toilet paper
      • In the toilet bowl
    • Anal itching and burning
    • Swelling and pain during bowel movements
    • Sensitive lumps of various sizes around the anus

  • Treatment

    If you are diagnosed with hemorrhoids, follow your doctor's instructions.