What are Haemorrhoids?

By  , Expert Content
Aug 27, 2012

“Haemorrhoids” is the term that is used to denote swollen and inflamed veins around the anus or in the lower rectum. The rectum is the part of the large intestine which leads to the anus. The anus is the opening of the digestive tract from where the faecal matter leaves the body.

There are two types of haemorrhoids - external and internal. The external haemorrhoids are located under the skin around the anus, and the internal haemorrhoids develop in the lower rectum. In some cases the internal haemorrhoids may protrude or prolapse through the anus. In most people the prolapsed haemorrhoids go back inside the rectum without treatment. In cases of severe prolapse, the haemorrhoids may protrude permanently.

Having haemorrhoids is a common problem in adults. According to studies, about 75 percent of people will have haemorrhoids at some point in their lives. It is observed to be most common among adults aged between 45 and 65.

What causes haemorrhoids?

Swelling of the veins in the anal or rectal canal causes haemorrhoids. Some common factors that may cause this swelling, include:

  • chronic constipation or frequent diarrhoea
  • straining to pass stool
  • sitting on the toilet for long periods of time and straining
  • diet low in  fibre
  • age – the connective tissue in the rectum and anus becomes weak with age.

The risk of haemorrhoids is increased in pregnancy because of increased pressure in the abdomen, as this may enlarge the veins in the lower rectum and anus. Haemorrhoids caused by pregnancy usually go away after childbirth.

Symptoms of haemorrhoids

Common symptoms of haemorrhoids include bleeding during bowel movements, itching, and rectal pain. Rectal pain is more common in external haemorrhoids. Most people with internal haemorrhoids do not have pain. If a blood clot forms under the skin, the haemorrhoids form a hard and painful lump. Rectal bleeding and itching are common symptoms of internal haemorrhoids. Itching is caused due to mucus seeping out of the anus, as this irritates the anal skin and causes irritation leading to itching.

Treatment of haemorrhoids

Haemorrhoids treatment includes lifestyle modification, medications and surgical procedures if needed. In many people haemorrhoids improve considerably with lifestyle modifications. But some may need medications or surgical procedures.

Diet and lifestyle changes can improve swelling and symptoms of haemorrhoids in many people. Increasing  fibre content in the diet and drinking plenty of water (six to eight 8-ounce glasses of water or other non-alcoholic fluids in a day) are important changes as it can make stools softer and easier to pass.

Haemorrhoids with the symptoms of pain, itching or discomfort, can be treated with over-the-counter creams, ointments, suppositories or pads. Taking a bulk stool softener or a  fibre supplement such as psyllium or methylcellulose can make the stool soft and easier to pass.

If lifestyle, diet changes and medications are not able to improve the symptoms, surgery may be needed. Many different types of procedures are done for haemorrhoids. Your doctor will discuss with you and choose the best option based on many factors including size of haemorrhoids, symptoms and your overall health.



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