Hemorrhoids are caused when the veins in the rectum situated just above the anus get blocked due to external pressure. This causes obstructions in the blood flow and leads to swelling of the veins. Hemorrhoids are classified as internal hemorrhoids which are within the anal canal and external hemorrhoids which are under the skin just outside the anus. Hemorrhoids can affect both men and women. Although this is not a life threatening condition, it can be quite uncomfortable and even painful. Further complications like thrombosis and infection can occur if left untreated.
What causes Hemorrhoids?
1. Constipation - The number one cause for hemorrhoids is constipation. The straining during bowel movements exerts a lot of pressure on the veins in the rectum.
2. Excessive sitting - Sitting for long periods of time including on the toilet can also cause hemorrhoids.
3. Anal intercourse - The act can often exert a lot of strain on the anal canal.
5. Pregnancy - The excessive pressure on the lower abdomen during pregnancy can lead to hemorrhoids.
6. Obesity - Overweight people often suffer from hemorrhoids because of all the side effects the excess weight can have in the body and during digestion.
7. Low-fiber diet - A poor diet affects the digestion and stool formation.
Hemorrhoids can be noted by their common symptoms. However, you can only be sure of it after taking a medical test. The common symptoms will only indicate that you need to consult a doctor. Some of the common symptoms of hemorrhoids are:
- The presence of blood in stool. This can be noted by redness in tissue paper or in the toilet bowl.
- Mucus in the stool.
- Itchiness in the anal area.
- Pain in the anus, especially during visits to the bathroom.
- Burning sensation while passing stools.
- The presence of lumps in the anus or around the anal opening.
If you have one or more of these symptoms, you should go for a medical examination to determine whether or not you have hemorrhoids. This is important since the treatment of hemorrhoids needs to start early. Otherwise, you might risk developing thrombosed hemorrhoids and prolapsed hemorrhoids, both of which are very painful and expensive to treat.
So how do doctors diagnose hemorrhoids? Here are some of the methods used:
- Physical examination
The doctor will examine your anal area for the presence of any lumps. At first, the doctor will visually observe for signs of other physical symptoms of hemorrhoid such as the presence of redness or lumps before conducting an internal examination. For this, the doctor will use a lubricated hand glove and insert a finger into the anus to feel for any abnormalities in the anal area. This might involve some slight discomfort. The procedure is referred as direct rectal examination or digital examination. From the results of this examination, the doctor can conclude whether further tests are required.
A photoscope is a thin and hollow tube that has a light at the end. Photoscopy is a thorough examination of your anus and is used to check your entire anal canal. The procedure involves the insertion of a photoscope into the anus to check for any abnormalities in the system. This procedure is more conclusive since the doctor can have a good view of the anal canal. A physical examination may not be very accurate sometimes since hemorrhoids are too small or soft to be felt by a finger.
Colonoscopy is not always used to diagnose hemorrhoids. Usually it is used in patients who are over the age of 50 and those who have stayed for a while without having a colon examination. This test involves the examination of the entire colon which is the second part of the intestines. A colonoscope is a thin and flexible tube which is inserted into the colon to check the inner lining of it. This procedure can help the doctor in discovering other conditions such as ulcers, tumors and polyps.
In this procedure, the patient is given some sedative pills so that the whole process can be done while they remain unconscious. The colonoscope is then inserted into the colon. It has a light and a camera at one end enabling the doctor to examine the colon area. In order to improve the view of the area, the colonoscope blows some air into the colon. Once the doctor has examined the entire colon, colonoscope will be withdrawn from the system slowly.
Though this is similar to a colonoscopy, this procedure uses a shorter tube called a sigmoidoscope. The sigmoidoscope is used to examine the lining of the rectum and the lower part of the colon called the sigmoid colon. This procedure allows the doctor to get a clear view of the anal canal and is used to get a closer look at hemorrhoid.
- Barium Enema X-ray
Barium is a radiocontrast agent. A solution containing barium sulfate is inserted into the rectum which highlights certain parts of the colon when the X-ray is taken. Then the doctor is able to make a diagnosis for hemorrhoids by examining the X-ray images.
Hemorrhoids are often embarrassing to talk about and some people might actually delay getting medical attention because they are shy to talk about their symptoms. But bear in mind that doctors are trained professionals and are very experienced in this area. Taking action and getting your symptoms checked up will help to prevent further complications which might occur later on. If you are still unsure about visiting a doctor, confide in a relative or a close friend and take them along for moral support.
When going for an examination, it is important to inform your doctor of any other symptoms you are experiencing. These will give the doctor an idea about what condition or disease you might be suffering from. For example, blood in stool does not always mean that you have hemorrhoids, but when combined with other symptoms, the doctor will be able to assess the exact condition.
Hence do not put off your doctor’s visit. Remember the old proverb- a stitch in time saves nine.
- Hemorrhoids are classified as internal hemorrhoids and external hemorrhoids.
- It can affect both men and women.
- Hemorrhoids can be noted by their common symptoms.