Hemorrhoids are a relatively common complaint among both men and women, affecting about one out of every 20 people, according to the National Institutes of Health. If you’re over 50, though, your risks increase considerably. The NIH says about half of all men and women over 50 years of age have hemorrhoids, thanks to a lifetime of pressure on their rectums and lower bowels.
Although hemorrhoids may look (and certainly feel) like tissue growths, they’re actually swollen masses of blood vessels. They can be divided into two primary “types” — internal and external — depending on whether they’re located inside your rectum or lower bowel (internal) or around your anal opening (external). Sometimes, a hemorrhoid can protrude from your anus, a condition called prolapse. While hemorrhoids can cause a lot of pain, the good news is, they're rarely serious — and they can be treated successfully using fairly simple treatment options. If you suffer from hemorrhoids, here’s what you should know about internal and external hemorrhoids and what you can do to relieve your painful symptoms.
Causes and symptoms of hemorrhoids
Hemorrhoids form when excess pressure is placed on your lower bowel, rectum, or anus. The most common causes are pregnancy, obesity, regular straining during bowel movements, diarrhea or constipation, and spending long periods of time sitting or standing. You're also more likely to have hemorrhoids if you do a lot of heavy lifting or if your diet is low in fiber.
Hemorrhoids can cause symptoms like pain, burning, and itching, and pain can be especially noticeable when you're sitting down. Depending on where your hemorrhoid is located, you might feel a lump or bump around your anus when wiping after a bowel movement. This lump will probably be quite tender to the touch, and it may bleed when wiped. Using moist wipes can help prevent irritating the area.
One of the most common symptoms is rectal bleeding. Since bleeding during bowel movements can also be a sign of colorectal cancer, Crohn's disease, ulcerative colitis, or other serious gastrointestinal problems, seeing blood after a bowel movement can be pretty upsetting. In most cases, though, bleeding associated with these problems causes your bowel movements to look very dark or black. The blood that comes from a hemorrhoid typically is bright red. Still, because some types of rectal bleeding can indicate a serious and even life-threatening medical problem, you should always call the office to report bleeding to determine if you need to be seen.
Most hemorrhoids can be successfully treated using simple remedies. For external hemorrhoids, sitting in a warm bath or basin filled with warm water can help reduce swelling and irritation. You can also apply special creams and ointments designed to reduce swelling and pain. Using those moist wipes after having a bowel movement will help prevent bleeding while also soothing painful symptoms. It’s also important to incorporate more fiber into your diet so you can avoid straining when moving your bowels. Fiber can also help ensure your bowel movements are softer and less likely to irritate existing hemorrhoids. Eating more fiber and drinking more water can also help ensure your bowel movements are softer and less likely to irritate existing hemorrhoids. Taking over-the-counter pain medicine may also help. When these approaches don’t work, your doctor can suggest other treatment options, including removal of the hemorrhoid.
Because internal hemorrhoids are located inside your body, they typically need other treatments to relieve painful symptoms. At Hawaii Gastroenterology Specialist, we offer a simple procedure called banding to help eliminate painful hemorrhoids. In a banding procedure, your doctor uses a special viewing instrument to see inside your anus and rectum.
Next, an instrument called a ligator is used to gently hold the hemorrhoid while an elastic band is placed around the swollen vessels. The band constricts the blood vessels, stopping the flow of blood so the hemorrhoid eventually dies and falls off. Typically, it takes several days before the hemorrhoid falls off. During that time, you may feel some discomfort, but it will subside as the band takes effect. A topical anesthetic may be applied to the hemorrhoid prior to the banding procedure to make sure you stay comfortable and relaxed.
Put an end to painful hemorrhoid symptoms
Although they’re rarely serious, hemorrhoids can still take a major toll on your comfort and your quality of life. At Hawaii Gastroenterology Specialist, we offer custom treatment solutions to help patients eliminate painful symptoms of internal and external hemorrhoids. To eliminate your hemorrhoid symptoms, book an appointment online today.