Some health issues are difficult to talk about, even with your GP, but it's vital that you do. One such condition is haemorrhoids.
One of the most painful diseases, Haemorrhoids or piles, has become very common. Almost 1 in 4 people in the general population, irrespective of gender, may go through this disturbing health issue once in their lives. Around 20,000 haemorrhoidal procedures are carried out in the UK each year.
Haemorrhoids are no alien but already existing veins in your lower rectum or anus that swell for many reasons. You may call them varicose veins, also.
Let's get to know this monster first!
Types of Haemorrhoids
These haemorrhoids are not visible, but bleeding and pain while passing stool make you experience high discomfort. However, severe bleeding may lead to weakness and other complications.
In the early stages, you may feel irritation or itching in the anus or lower rectum. Discomfort and pain in the anal area while passing stool is also very common symptoms of external haemorrhoids. Gradually, it leads to swelling and bleeding. Visible swollen and painful veins in the lower rectum are the most common symptoms of external haemorrhoids.
In some cases, external haemorrhoids worsen due to negligence or gradually worsen, and you experience clotting in the anal area. This clotting causes pain, inflammation, and swelling in and around the anal area.
Causes of Haemorrhoids
Haemorrhoids are caused by unwanted pressure and stretch of the veins in the lower rectum or anus area. Many reasons cause this pressure, like obesity, continuous sitting for long periods, chronic constipation, frequent diarrhoea, and lack of fibre in the diet. Some women may also experience haemorrhoids during pregnancy because the fetus's weight pressurises the muscles and tissues in the rectum. Individuals who lift weights professionally also tend to have haemorrhoids. Haemorrhoid is common among individuals who have anal intercourse. Age also increases the risk of haemorrhoids because the tissues lose their elasticity.
How to Diagnose Haemorrhoids?
Remember that every bleeding from the anus is not a haemorrhoid. So, it is better to let your doctor decide for you. Doctors usually go for either a digital examination or a visual inspection. They insert a finger into the rectum after covering it with a glove and lubricating it. This examination helps determine the swelling or unwanted growth inside the anus.
In the case of internal haemorrhoids, digital tools such as a sigmoidoscope, proctoscope or anoscope are used to check the rectum and lower part of the colon. This examination helps to identify the soft varicose veins or haemorrhoids which go undetected during a manual inspection of the rectum.
A colonoscopy is a good option to diagnose this disease in middle-aged people or have symptoms of other digestive system diseases.
When to Seek Professional Help?
If pain or bleeding while passing the stool prolongs more than a week without any improvement, it is time to seek the help of a medical professional. Don't wait a week if you experience heavy rectal bleeding, dizziness or lightheadedness. This heavy bleeding may cause faintness and require emergency care.
Treatment Options for Haemorrhoids
Changing Food Habits
In the early stages, you may treat or improve haemorrhoids with a tweak in diet or lifestyle. If constipation or chronic loose motions are the reasons, try adding fibre-rich foods to your diet while cutting the amount of white flour and sugary items. Cut on caffeine intake and add more water to your drinks.
Eat whole grains ad replace juices with vegetables and fruits. This will ease bowel movement and reduce the pressure on rectum tissues. However, avoid stuffing yourself with fibre-rich foods at once, as it may cause a gas issue.
If you have a job which requires you to sit for long hours, start taking little breaks. Stroll around during these breaks to reduce the pressure on anal tissues.
There are many topical creams available over-the-counter that you may use without a prescription. These creams work effectively in the early stages of haemorrhoids. These creams contain hydrocortisone to relieve the symptoms.
You may also go for pads to ease the pain. These pads contain numbing agents or witch hazel.
Sit in warm water every day for ten to fifteen minutes. This will soften the stretched tissues in the anus and relieve pain. Moreover, it reduces inflammation, itching and swelling.
However, if the situation does not improve with these tips and remedies, seek medical help immediately. After a thorough examination, your doctor will decide which treatment option is best for you.
Professional Medical Treatments
In many cases of external haemorrhoids or thrombosis, blood clot forms which are highly painful. It requires surgical removal. Such surgeries usually need local anaesthesia with very short downtime. This treatment is highly effective if the clot is not older than 72 hours.
Rubber band Ligation
This is a minimally invasive treatment which does not even require anaesthesia. The doctor cuts off the blood circulation of the internal haemorrhoids by placing very small rubber bands around its base. This treatment option is relatively uncomfortable, and you experience bleeding in rare cases. This bleeding may continue for up to two or four days.
In this treatment, your doctor directly injects a medicine into the haemorrhoid tissue, which makes it shrink by reducing swelling. This option is less painful than rubber band ligation.
Laser, Infrared or Bipolar
Your doctor uses infrared light, laser or heat to coagulate the haemorrhoids. The haemorrhoids shrink and harden with infrared. It is particularly effective for internal haemorrhoids. However, it may cause discomfort in some patients.
In most cases, haemorrhoids get better using these treatments. Yet, some patients may need advanced surgical procedures to improve their symptoms.
This treatment is highly effective for internal haemorrhoids. The doctor blocks the blood flow to the affected tissues, resulting in the haemorrhoids' shrinkage. However, this treatment has some serious side effects, including rectal prolapse and haemorrhoid recurrence.
The doctor removes the tissues that cause pain and bleeding using various techniques. Such surgeries need general or spinal anaesthesia. Hemorrhoidectomy has a very high success rate, especially in chronic cases.
There are very few side effects of this surgery, including UTI (urinary tract infection) and mild pain or discomfort.
As they say, prevention is better than cure; adopt a healthy lifestyle to avoid haemorrhoids. Seek professional help as soon as possible if there is too much pain or bleeding or the symptoms do not improve after a week.