Hemorrhoids are swollen veins located around the anus or in the lower rectum. Almost half of adults have experienced the symptoms of hemorrhoids by the age of 50. They may either be internal or external. Internal hemorrhoids develop within the anus or rectum. External hemorrhoids develop outside of the anus. External hemorrhoids are the most common and the most troublesome. Hemorrhoids can cause pain, severe itching, and difficulty sitting.
The symptoms of hemorrhoids include:
- Extreme itching around the anus
- Irritation and pain around the anus
- An itchy or painful lump or swelling near your anus
- Fecal leakage
- A painful bowel movement
- Blood on your tissue after having a bowel movement
Although hemorrhoids are painful, they are not life-threatening and often go away on their own without treatment. Developing symptoms of anemia such as weakness and paleness due to blood loss is rare.
A visual examination of your anus may be enough to diagnose hemorrhoids. To confirm the diagnosis, your doctor may check for any abnormalities within the anus via a digital rectal exam. During this exam, your doctor inserts a gloved and lubricated finger into your rectum. If they feel anything abnormal, they may order an additional test called a sigmoidoscopy.
A sigmoidoscopy involves your doctor using a small camera to diagnose an internal hemorrhoid. This small fiber-optic camera, called a sigmoidoscope, fits into a small tube and then inserts into your rectum. From this test, your doctor gets a clear view of the inside of your rectum so that they can examine the hemorrhoid up close.
Treatment for hemorrhoids can be done at home or at a doctor’s office.
To minimize pain, soak in a warm tub of water for at least 10 minutes every day. You can also sit on a warm water bottle to relieve the pain of external hemorrhoids. If the pain is too much to bear, you can use an over-the-counter medicated suppository, ointment, or cream to relieve the burning and itching.
Home treatment can also include increasing your dietary fiber intake which can minimize the risk of developing hemorrhoids in the future.
Good dietary fiber sources include:
- Whole wheat
- Brown rice
- Dietary fiber helps create bulk in the intestines, which softens the stool, making it easier to pass.
If you are constipated, you can also use an over-the-counter fiber supplement to help soften your stool.
If home treatments are not helping your case of hemorrhoids, your doctor might recommend getting a rubber band ligation. This procedure involves the doctor cutting off the circulation of the hemorrhoid by placing a rubber band around it. This causes loss of circulation to the hemorrhoid, forcing it to shrink.
Sclerotherapy may also be done by injecting a chemical into the blood vessel directly which causes the hemorrhoid to reduce in size.