According to certain sources, analytics show that the interest in the term “hemorrhoids” more than doubled between 2008 and 2013, with the number of Google searches creeping up from 40,000 times weekly in 2008 to nearly 120,000 during some weeks in 2013.
To health experts, this means only one thing; Americans are more comfortable turning to the Internet for information on hemorrhoids rather than bring the subject up with their doctor or physician. But sadly enough, the information about hemorrhoids on the Internet is either incomplete or misinterpreted or of very poor quality.
Let’s start by addressing the truth about hemorrhoids and what causes them to get inflamed in the first place.
Everyone Has Hemorrhoids (Including You)
Yes, it’s true. Everyone has hemorrhoids. In their normal state, these are swollen cushions of elastic connective tissue, muscle, and blood vessels located on the anal sphincter and are in charge of stool control. Well-functioning hemorrhoids help your body hold the fecal matter in and ensure that no liquid leaks through the sphincter at the very end of the digestive tract.
Therefore, hemorrhoids are a natural part of human anatomy. Having them is completely normal and nothing to worry about at all. Inflamed hemorrhoids (also called piles), on the other hand, are a cause for concern. Popular culture often referred to “piles” as “hemorrhoids” and this is how the two terms became interchangeable in common vernacular.
So When Do Hemorrhoids Become A Problem?
Sometimes, the walls of the hemorrhoid blood vessels can stretch and become very thin. This causes the veins to bulge, and results in extreme irritation and inflammation, especially when you’re pooping. When hemorrhoids begin to swell chronically, they can give rise to a variety of symptoms like:
- Itchy and painful hard lumps
- Experiencing an urge to visit the bathroom even after you’ve already gone
- Mucous discharge while defecating
- Excretion of bright red blood along with fecal matter
Swollen hemorrhoids or piles can occur in anyone, from teenagers to the elderly, regardless of the person’s age or overall physical condition.
What Causes Inflamed Hemorrhoids (Piles)?
Anything that increases the pressure in your abdominal or lower rectal region can cause your hemorrhoids to become chronically inflamed. Traditionally, inflamed hemorrhoids or piles are associated with:
- Chronic constipation
- Straining during bowel movements
- Sitting for too long on the toilet
Other things that can lead to swollen hemorrhoids are:
- Straining during physical activity (like lifting something heavy)
- Putting on extra weight or becoming obese
- Pregnancy (where an enlarged uterus presses against the veins)
All of the above conditions hamper the natural flow of blood to and from the area, causing blood pooling and enlargement of the blood vessels.
Internal and External Hemorrhoids
Everyone has two types of hemorrhoids – internal and external.
Internal hemorrhoids: These are located far inside your rectum where there is no skin. When these get inflamed, you won’t usually be able to see or feel them. Also, inflamed internal hemorrhoids don’t generally hurt because they consist of very few pain-sensing nerves. Bleeding or discharge may be the only sign that you have inflamed internal hemorrhoids.
External hemorrhoids: External hemorrhoids are located under the skin that’s around the anus. For this reason, inflamed external hemorrhoids can be visually detected during inspection. Because these hemorrhoids are covered in skin, which consequently bears many pain-sensing nerves, they will tend to irritate or hurt more upon inflammation and will also cause bleeding.
Treating Inflamed Hemorrhoids Through Surgery
Some cases of inflamed hemorrhoids cannot be managed with conservative home treatments alone. This could either be because the symptoms persist for far too long or because an internal hemorrhoid has prolapsed.
Some of the most common of these treatments are as follows:
- Rubber band ligation: where a small elastic band is placed around the base of the swollen hemorrhoid. This shrinks the hemorrhoid and causes the surrounding tissue to scar as it heals while holding the hemorrhoid in place. This procedure rarely causes any complications, and even if it does, you will only experience mild pain or tightness, bleeding, and infection.
- Hemorrhoidectomy: In cases of large protruding hemorrhoids, persistently symptomatic external hemorrhoids, or internal hemorrhoids that keep returning despite rubber band ligation, surgery may be necessary to remove the swollen blood vessels. The procedure is performed under anesthesia and is known to cure about 95 percent of chronically inflamed hemorrhoid cases. It is also associated with minimal complications.
- Staples: This is an alternative procedure to the traditional hemorrhoidectomy. The surgeon uses a stapling device to keep the hemorrhoids anchored in their normal position. Like traditional hemorrhoid removal, this procedure is also performed under general anesthesia.
How To Naturally Manage Your Symptoms
Simple home remedies can help relieve you from most hemorrhoid symptoms as well as prevent occasional flare-ups. For instant relief from painful, inflamed hemorrhoids, try:
- Topical creams: Over-the-counter hemorrhoid creams are easily available at your local chemist’s. These contain a local anesthetic that can temporarily reduce and soothe the pain. While creams containing hydrocortisone also work, it isn’t recommended to use them beyond a week as they cause the skin to atrophy.
- Witch hazel wipes: Add a few drops of lavender essential oil to about an ounce of witch hazel. Mix this well. Then dip some round cotton pads in the solution and let each one soak for a few seconds. Remove and soak them in the freezer. The next time you find yourself in pain, use one of these pads for instant, subliminal relief!
- Ice packs: Ice is very helpful in reducing pain and inflammation and also prevents the tissue from getting damaged any further. Simply put some crushed ice in a plastic bag, wrap a towel around it and apply it your anal region for instant comfort.
- Sitz baths: A sitz bath is a warm, shallow bath that helps cleanse the area between your rectum and your vulva or scrotum and can help decrease pain and swelling. Take a sitz bath about thrice a day and each time after you poop.
Preventive Measures That May Help Improve Your Symptoms Naturally
Being mindful of making certain lifestyle changes that are also healthy for you in general, can help fend off occasional flare-ups. Some of these changes are as follows:
- Drinking adequate water: to avoid hard stool formation and constipation, so you strain less during eliminating fecal matter.
- Eating a fiber-rich diet: Along with drinking enough water, eating lots of fiber will soften your stools and make them much easier to pass, thereby reducing the pressure on your hemorrhoids. Start by eating plenty of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts, and seeds. However, do not boost your fiber intake dramatically overnight as this may cause bloating and gas and worsen your situation. Start slowly, and gradually increase your intake till you reach about 25-30 grams of fiber intake per day.
- Exercising every day: Regular physical activity, like brisk walking or jogging is a great way to keep your boost both blood circulation and bowel movement.
- Not waiting for the pressure to build: Feel free to use the loo as soon as you feel the urge.