Talking about hemorrhoids, also known as piles, may seem embarrassing to some people. However, they are very common. At least 1 in every 20 people in the U.S. and about 50% of people over the age of 50 have had hemorrhoids.
Though common, hemorrhoids are not dangerous. You can treat them using some home remedies. There are other symptoms of hemorrhoids, such as rectal bleeding, which may be caused by other serious medical conditions like colon cancer.
It is quite reasonable to want to know if it is a hemorrhoid or something else that is causing your symptoms so that you may seek the right treatment. The best way to help prevent a minor complaint from becoming a serious problem is knowing more about hemorrhoids, including the symptoms and risk factors.
What They Are
Every person has some small veins in their anus and rectum. With time, the tissue that is located above the veins becomes weak, and at the same time, the veins bulge and enlarge. When this happens, hemorrhoids develop under the skin around the anus or inside the rectum.
If something disturbs them, they can itch, bleed, and get sore. These are the symptoms that are a major sign that you have hemorrhoids.
There are three types of hemorrhoids: external, internal, and thrombosed. The signs and symptoms that you may have will depend on the type of hemorrhoids. Symptoms for external pines usually occur under the skin or around the anus, and they include:
- Pain or discomfort
- Irritation or itching around the anal region
- Swelling around your anus
Internal hemorrhoids lie inside the rectum, and this means that you will not be able to see them. They are less likely to be uncomfortable, but you will feel some irritation when passing stool. You may also notice some bright red blood in the toilet or on the tissue paper. In some cases, hemorrhoids may push through the anus, and this can be painful.
On the other hand, thrombosed hemorrhoids occur when blood pools in external hemorrhoids form a clot known as thrombus. Its symptoms include:
- A hard lump near your anus
- Severe pain
These symptoms are common for hemorrhoids. Considering your symptoms will help you know if you have hemorrhoids and also which type it is. But how do you know if it is something else?
When to See a Doctor
In as much as hemorrhoids are not serious, there are cases where you should get help. This is especially true if the above symptoms do not go away after trying some home remedies. Any bleeding in your bowel movement or symptoms that do not go away after a week should be checked.
You may want to get in touch with your primary caregiver or see a specialist such as Dr. Murrell, a hemorrhoid treatment specialist. This will help you get an expert diagnostic evaluation so that you can start the right treatment.
If your stool changes color or consistency, you have rectal bleeding, or have any changes in bowel habits, you should not assume that it is hemorrhoids. Get help immediately if you notice other symptoms like:
- Heavy rectal bleeding
- First time rectal bleeding
- Feeling dizzy, faint or lightheaded
- Rectal bleeding that is not responding to home remedies
- Itching, burning, pressure, and pain around the rectal area that does not respond to home care after a few days
- Hemorrhoid symptoms along with other symptoms like weight loss, a change in bowel habit, abdominal pain, or fever
Hemorrhoids, regardless of the type, can be treated. In some cases, you may need surgical treatment. This will be done by a colon or rectal surgeon.
Causes and Risk Factors
When the veins around your anus stretch due to pressure and swell, they form hemorrhoids. The pressure can be caused by several reasons like:
- Straining during bowel movements
- Chronic diarrhea or constipation
- Having anal intercourse
- Sitting for a long time on the toilet
- Regular heavy lifting
- Eating a low-fiber diet
As you grow older, you are more at risk of hemorrhoids. This is because the tissue that sustains the veins in the rectum and anus become weak and stretch. The same happens when one is pregnant because the baby's weight tends to put pressure on the anal region.
Can Hemorrhoids Be Prevented?
Hemorrhoids are mostly caused by lifestyle choices. This means they are preventable. To prevent and also reduce the symptoms, you should:
- Try to drink six to eight glasses of water and other non-alcoholic drinks per day
- Exercise regularly for at least 20 minutes per day
- Eat high-fiber foods like vegetables, fresh fruits, and whole grains
- Avoid pushing, straining, or holding your breath during a bowel movement
- Try not to sit for a long time, especially on the toilet
- As soon as you feel the urge to have a bowel movement you should go
- When constipated, use laxatives or other OTC remedies
- Use a lukewarm sitz bath to relieve the area around your anus
Several myths have been told about hemorrhoids, but knowing the facts will help you understand how to prevent the problem, and when there is cause for alarm.
So: Is It a Hemorrhoid or Something Else?
To know if it is a hemorrhoid or something else, you should first check the symptoms that you have and, if necessary, see your doctor to rule out any complications. Remember, hemorrhoids are very common, so you shouldn't feel embarrassed to discuss it with your doctor.
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