Hemorrhoids are inflamed and swollen veins in the rectum, which is the last section of the digestive system. They can also occur at the opening of the anus. The veins in the lower rectum and anus tend to swell under pressure, which is basically what causes hemorrhoids. They cause severe pain in the anal region.
The exact cause of hemorrhoids is still unknown. Genetic reasons and an unhealthy lifestyle are the most common factors that contribute to the development of hemorrhoids.
People suffering from constipation are at risk of getting hemorrhoids since they exert more pressure to empty their bowels, which could trouble the veins. Hemorrhoids are also commonly known as piles. Hemorrhoids can be both internal and external. So what exactly can cause pressure in these sections of the digestive system?
Causes of Hemorrhoids
1. Low-Fiber Diet
A low-fiber diet can cause an increased pressure on the veins, especially in the final sections of the gut. Normally, fiber helps in easing digestion and helps prevent constipation. Without fiber, you are more likely to experience constipation and straining during bathroom visits. In addition, when constipated, you are likely to spend a lengthy period of time seated on the toilet. Straining causes pressure on the veins in the anus and rectum, which is why it can easily lead to the formation of hemorrhoids.
To prevent hemorrhoids, increase the amount of fiber-rich fruits and vegetables in your daily diet. If you ever get constipated, you should take it easy since pushing too hard will cause even more pressure on your rectal and anal veins. Try to position your legs at a higher level by using a small stool for support. Such position will promote the normal movement of blood in your rectal and anal veins.
Pregnancy has been associated with hemorrhoids because of the pressure imposed on the anus and rectum by the enlarged uterus. During pregnancy, women also experience hormonal changes that can weaken the muscles in the rectum and anus leading to the formation of hemorrhoids.
Pregnant women should drink sufficient amounts of water every day to avoid having hemorrhoids. Drinking 8-10 glasses of water a day is normally advised. Drinking enough water will also help prevent constipation and can help make the stool softer.
Obesity, just like pregnancy, will put one’s abdomen under pressure, which causes an enlargement of the veins in the anus and lower rectum.
Diarrhea can also lead to painful swelling in the anus and rectum. People who have diarrhea spend a lot of time seated on the toilet, which causes pressure in the anal area. The pressure created will cause the veins to swell leading to the formation of hemorrhoids.
You can prevent diarrhea by observing proper hygiene when it comes to eating food. Make sure your meals are cleanly prepared and properly cooked.
5. Poor Posture
Slouching while standing or sitting for extended periods of time can also impose pressure on your abdomen and lead to the slow flow of blood in your abdomen. Hence, poor posture can also cause the formation of hemorrhoids. Similarly, carrying heavy objects can lead to the development of hemorrhoids due to an increase in abdominal pressure.
If you have to sit or stand for hours, then you should take short breaks or take a short walk to avoid getting hemorrhoids. Alternatively, you can do stretching exercises to promote a good flow of blood in your body.
6. Anal Intercourse
Anal intercourse has also been linked to hemorrhoids since it can cause an increase in anal pressure, making the anal veins swell. The increase in pressure can then lead to hemorrhoids.
Identifying the Symptoms
Constipation, rectal bleeding, the presence of blood in stools, a lump arising in the anal canal, itching, and a tendency to repeatedly empty the bowels are some of the signs of hemorrhoids.
Hemorrhoids are classified into four stages or grades:
In this stage, the internal hemorrhoid is still inside the anal cavity or above the pectinate line. The swellings are also not protruded, meaning there are no signs and symptoms of hemorrhoids. In some cases, hemorrhoids can be confused for anal fissures. Usually, one does not experience pain at this stage. However, sometimes, people may experience some mild bleeding, discomfort, and itchiness.
In this stage, the hemorrhoids have begun to weaken and prolapsed hemorrhoids start to develop. The collapse of the hemorrhoid tissues causes them to start hanging out of the anus, which causes irritation and pain to the affected individual. However, this stage is reversible. Unlike severe stages, the prolapsed hemorrhoids will reverse back into the anus without any effort from the patient. In this stage, bleeding is also quite common.
Stage 3 is similar to stage 2 hemorrhoids. Their only difference is the reversibility of the condition. In stage 3, the hemorrhoids do not reverse back to their position in the anal canal on their own. Instead, they have to be manually pushed back into the anus. Stage 3 hemorrhoids are more uncomfortable than the stage 2 ones. Rectal bleeding after bowel movements is also common at this stage.
In stage 4, the hemorrhoids hang outside of the anus and bleed, which cause extreme discomfort and pain. Since the hemorrhoids will usually become open wounds at this stage, they can also cause infections. Since the hemorrhoids cannot be reversed back into the anus, they can get strangulated when the buttock's sphincter muscles constrict on the hemorrhoids. It causes significant pain to the individual and can even lead to thrombosis.
There are a few measures that you can take to prevent the occurrence of hemorrhoids--from changing your diet to making a few lifestyle changes.
Hemorrhoids are caused by straining your bowel muscles when voiding. To prevent this from happening, consume a healthy diet, especially one that is rich in dietary fiber. Try to add more legumes, oats, and whole grains to your diet along with a lot of vegetables.
Dietary fiber can also aid in your digestion and cause smooth bowel movements. Fiber can help prevent a hemorrhoid reoccurrence. Thus, try your best to eat fiber-rich foods and vegetables. However, also remember that too much fiber can also cause gas and bloating. What you can do is to gradually increase the amount of fiber rather than suddenly including a lot of fiber-rich foods in your diet.
Make sure that your body is well hydrated by drinking plenty of water. Being hydrated can help promote better digestion as well as prevent hemorrhoids.
3. Lose Weight
Being overweight often leads to the formation of hemorrhoids. To prevent hemorrhoids, you may want to consider exercising as well as making some dietary and lifestyle changes to lose weight.
Exercise is also one of the most important factors to have a better digestion. Try to make some time and exercise daily for at least half an hour.
Treatments and Side Effects
There are various ointments, creams, and over-the-counter medications to help alleviate the symptoms of hemorrhoids. They are all listed below along with their side effects. But do consult your physician for a treatment plan that can effectively cure your condition.
1. Hydrocortisone Cream
Hydrocortisone creams are often used to alleviate the pain and irritation associated with hemorrhoids. Just take a dab of the cream and apply it to the affected area. Remember not to use two or three different creams at the same time as it can cause them to react to each other and worsen your condition.
Like hydrocortisone, lidocaine is used to alleviate hemorrhoid symptoms, which can range from pain to severe itching in the rectal area. Just like hydrocortisone creams, apply the cream to the affected area to help alleviate the symptoms.
If over-the-counter medications don't seem to work, stop using it. You could also develop an allergic reaction to it. For this reason, it is better to consult a doctor to find a suitable treatment.
3. External Hemorrhoid Thrombectomy
This process is done when your doctor notices a blood clot forming in your hemorrhoids. Your doctor can help drain the blood clot with a simple incision and further removes the clot altogether.
4. Rubber Band Ligation
If your hemorrhoids are getting worse with increasing pain and irritation, your doctor may recommend a rubber band ligation. This process is about tying a rubber band around the hemorrhoids and cutting off all blood to it. In a short while, the hemorrhoids should wither and fall off. The process is quite effective when it comes to treating hemorrhoids.
This particular procedure can cause some pain, discomfort, and bleeding but should not last for more than a few minutes. Of all the other methods, the rubber band ligation happens to be the most effective.
Your doctor may also inject a chemical solution into a localized tissue to shrink the hemorrhoids. Although this method is not painful nor causes discomfort, it is still not as effective as the rubber band ligation.
6. Coagulation (Infrared or Bipolar)
This procedure involves laser to burn and cut off the hemorrhoids. Although this method is more effective than the injection, it is still less effective than the rubber band ligation. You may experience some pain and discomfort while the doctor moves on to remove the hemorrhoids. However, pain and discomfort should resolve on their own in the next few days.
Doctors can also recommend surgery to remove bleeding hemorrhoids. A local anesthetic is used along with sedation, before cutting off the hemorrhoids. Surgery may cause a few side effects such as a urinary tract infection.
Incidentally, your doctor could also try stapling the hemorrhoids as a way to block the blood flow to the hemorrhoids causing them to shrivel up and die. However, this method is not as effective as the other ones and comes with the higher risk of causing the hemorrhoids to return.