Hemorrhoids are the cluster of blood vessels that line your anus and lower rectum. Although everyone has these blood vessels, the medical condition commonly known as hemorrhoids occurs when these veins become swollen and cause itching, pain or bleeding. The swollen vessels, which affect approximately 40% of people in America, are also referred to as piles. There are two types of hemorrhoids: internal hemorrhoids and external hemorrhoids.
Internal hemorrhoids are inside the rectum and usually won’t cause any pain or discomfort, although you may experience some bleeding. In some cases, an internal hemorrhoid can become enlarged and protrude from the anus.
External hemorrhoids are located under the skin around the anus. These types of hemorrhoids are most likely to be painful because of the sensitive nerves in the skin. A blood clot, or thrombosis, can develop under the skin, causing a lump that you may be able to see or feel.
What Causes Hemorrhoids?
The hemorrhoid vessels swell when there is an increase in pressure in the lower rectum. This pressure can be caused by:
- Straining during bowel movements
- Chronic diarrhea or constipation
- Standing or sitting for long periods
Weakened veins, which become more common with age, are more likely to be affected by pressure.
What are the Symptoms of Hemorrhoids?
The most common symptoms associated with hemorrhoids are:
- Bleeding during bowel movements
- Rectal pain
Although rectal bleeding is a symptom of hemorrhoids, it can also be a sign of more serious medical issues. Contact your doctor if you experience bleeding. You should also schedule an appointment with your doctor if you notice significant changes in bowel movements, dark or tarry stools, or blood clots mixed with stool.
How Are Hemorrhoids Treated?
In many cases, hemorrhoids can be treated at home without medical intervention. You may be able to alleviate the symptoms of hemorrhoids completely by:
- Increasing your fiber intake.
- Exercising regularly.
- Going to the bathroom immediately when you feel the urge.
- Taking a sitz bath.
- Using witch hazel wipes.
- Applying topical creams containing hydrocortisone.
If these home remedies don’t resolve symptoms, or an internal hemorrhoid becomes prolapsed, your doctor may suggest additional options, including:
- Rubber band ligation – a series of in-office procedures to wrap a small, elastic band around the hemorrhoid, causing it to shrink and the surrounding tissue to heal.
- Hemorrhoidectomy – a surgical procedure to remove the swollen blood vessel.
- Stapled hemorrhoidectomy – a surgical procedure that anchors the hemorrhoids into their original position and blocks blood flow to the vein.
- Sclerotherapy – a chemical solution is injected into the hemorrhoid, causing the tissue to shrink.
- Coagulation – a laser, heat or infrared light is used to harden and shrink the hemorrhoid.
Talk to your Los Angeles hemorrhoid doctor to discuss potential side effects, the risk of recurrence, and which treatment options are right for you.