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Hemorrhoid Causes and Treatments

"Over the last year I've been experiencing hemorrhoids from my constipation and I decided it was time to do something about it. I started taking Puristat and within two weeks my constipation had subsided and now my hemorrhoids are healing!" - Tony, MA

After the age of fifty, one-half of the US population suffers from hemorrhoids. That's a staggering statistic, and what's more amazing is that the majority suffer silently because of the embarrassing nature of hemorrhoids. You are not alone and there are solutions to stopping the pain.

A hemorrhoid is a swollen or inflamed vein in the rectum and anus. They are caused by an increase of pressure in veins of the lower rectum.

Activities that will cause an increase of pressure and lead to the development of hemorrhoids include;

  • Constipation
  • Straining to have a bowel movement
  • Diarrhea
  • Standing or sitting for long periods of time
  • Obesity
  • Heavy lifting
  • Pregnancy or childbirth
  • Genetic

Most people with hemorrhoids will experience symptoms of bleeding from the rectum, itching, pain, swelling or inflammation, and a feeling of fullness in the rectum. Hemorrhoids are not usually life threatening and treatments are readily available.


There are four types of hemorrhoids:

Internal
Internal hemorrhoids are usually pain free as the internal anal cavity lacks the nerve endings that feel pain. While they are not painful you may experience some bleeding with an internal hemorrhoid.

Prolapsed
An internal hemorrhoid which protrudesfrom the anus is a prolapsed hemorrhoid. These hemorrhoids are usuallynot painful but may cause symptoms such as mild itching or burning and some bleeding. Prolapsed hemorrhoids can become irritatedand inflamed and turn into an external hemorrhoid.

External
Internal straining to have a bowel movement can push an internal hemorrhoid into the anal opening and it is then considered an external hemorrhoid. An external hemorrhoid is very painful as it is now outside the anal cavity and is easily aggravated. You may still experience bleeding with external hemorrhoid along with swelling, inflammation itching.

Thrombosed
A thrombosed hemorrhoid is an external hemorrhoid that has formed a blood clot inside of it. They are purple or blue in color and form just under the skin in the veins of the rectum or anus. If it becomes inflamed or irritated the skin surrounding the hemorrhoid will become reddish in color. Thrombosed hemorrhoids are very painful but usually don't require surgery; they can be treated with warm baths, creams, and a change in diet. In more severe cases a simple procedure can be used to drain or excise the hemorrhoid.


Prevention

Following prevention procedures will actually help relieve some pain and discomfort from existing hemorrhoids. Prevention is never popular, but when it comes to hemorrhoids it is critical to adopt a prevention mentality in order to help relive existing & prevent future hemorrhoids. Sometimes hemorrhoids are genetic and can't be prevented but the tips on prevention will still help relieve some pain and discomfort.

  • Do not delay bowel movements once the urge presents itself
  • Increase daily fiber intake through dietary modifications and fiber supplements
  • Increase fluid intake - especially water to soften stool
  • Complete a colon cleansing program to empty large intestines and speed transit time
  • Exercise - a link between exercise and regularity does exist
  • Keep the anal area dry and clean

Proper anal care plays a key role in reducing the pain and discomfort and can help you feel normal again. Following the tips above will help reduce and prevent the build up of waste in the large intestine which leads to constipation and straining to have a bowel movement.


Diagnosis

When diagnosing hemorrhoids a doctor will first want to get a history of the patient's bowel habits. This will help to determine what might be causing the patient to experience the hemorrhoids.

A simple visual examination of the rectum and anus will first be done; the doctor is looking for swollen or inflamed veins. If the visual examine is inconclusive the doctor will then perform an internal exam. This is what's known as a digital rectal exam. The doctor uses a gloved lubricated finger to feel for any abnormalities. The combination of these exams should be able to detect external hemorrhoids.

If a patient is suffering from internal hemorrhoids a more invasive exam may be needed. This is done with one of three scopes; anascope, proctoscope, or a sigmoidoscope.

The scopes are lighted tubes that are inserted inside the rectum and are used to do a more extensive examination of the colon. The doctor will be able to not only see internal hemorrhoids that may exist, but also anything else that may be causing bleeding.

Since hemorrhoids often come with bleeding as a symptom, it's important to locate the source of the bleeding. Rectal bleeding can be a symptom for many different ailments including colon cancer, which is why a proper diagnosis is important.


Treatment

Treatment for hemorrhoids is more or less geared towards relieving the pain and discomfort that one may be experiencing. A doctor will start with more conservative treatments and as the situations become more complicated they will move onto more extensive treatments.

If the symptoms of the hemorrhoid are mild, treatment would start with sitzbaths and over-the-counter creams. A sitzbath is a warm bath of plain water for a period of about 10 minutes. After taking a sitzbath it is important to make sure the area has been completely dried. This will help to reduce future irritation.

Over-the-counter suppositories or hemorrhoid creams can also be used to provide relief. There are also topical pain relievers that will help to reduce the pain, itching and swelling that are associated with hemorrhoids. These treatments will allow a patient to get relief as the hemorrhoids heal themselves.

If hemorrhoids are recurring or if they simply will not heal themselves there are some simple non-surgical procedures that can be done. Banding hemorrhoids is one of the more common and least invasive procedures. Banding is placing small elastic bands around the base of the hemorrhoid. This will cut off the blood supply to the hemorrhoid and it will eventually dry up, die and fall off.

Another very simple method is Sclerotherapy. It sounds worse than it is; Sclerotherapy is an injection of chemicals around the inflamed blood vessel which shrink the hemorrhoid.

The use of lasers is the final simple non-surgical procedure. An infrared light provides a 1 to 2 second burst of light which cuts off the circulation to the hemorrhoid causing it to shrink. All of these are day procedures which can be done in a doctor's office.

For those hemorrhoids that will not respond to any of the above treatments a more intense surgical procedure may be needed. A hemorrhoidectomy can be preformed to remove persistent or larger hemorrhoids.

This surgery is the complete removal of the hemorrhoidal tissue. The surgery can be done under a local anesthetic with sedation, a general anesthetic, or a spinal anesthetic. It is usually done as a day surgery. There may be some mild discomfort after the surgery which medication and sitzbaths can help to relieve.


Summary

As the title of this article suggests, if you suffer from hemorrhoids you are not alone. What you do about it is up to you though. Prevention techniques are your number one tool for preventing future hemorrhoids from developing and easing the discomfort of existing ones. Combining the prevention tips with creams and sitzbaths will give you both immediate and long term relief.

Medically treating existing hemorrhoids with Banding, Sclerotherapy or Lasers is also a simple solution to your present problem. Lastly surgery is the final solution to hemorrhoid removal.

For your personal comfort and long term mental and physical health, all of the prevention tips can and should be considered due to the many positive side benefits to living a healthier lifestyle.



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