Piles, originally known as hemorrhoids, are a medical condition characterized by the swelling of veins in the lower rectum and the anus. The veins are twisted and swollen, restricting the conventional blood flow in the anus and rectum. Even though it is very difficult to actually ascertain the cause of piles, the occurrence of this condition can be due to multiple reasons.
The most common causes of piles range from straining the veins at the time of being pregnant to additional pressure being applied on the veins during a bowel movement. This condition can occur internally or on the surface of the skin, depending on the cause and effect of the reason behind the occurrence of this condition.
Piles is a very common condition and is said to affect 3 out of 4 adults multiple times during their life. Symptoms of the disease are often spotted amongst patients before they even reach the age of 50. The symptoms of this condition may be minimal or very evident, depending on the severity of the situation. In a basic situation, a patient usually feels a little discomfort. While in a more serious situation such as thrombosed hemorrhoid, there may be the formation of blood clots which can cause excruciating pain. There are various treatments for this disease. Piles is not a very dangerous medical condition can usually be treated by making changes in the lifestyle or by easy home remedies which cause relief to the patient.
1. Internal Piles/Internal Hemorrhoids: Patients suffering from internal hemorrhoids experience rectal bleeding which is red and painless, at the time of defecating. Internal hemorrhoids are further categorized in 4 grades:
2.External Piles/External Hemorrhoids: Patient suffering with external piles or external hemorrhoids experiences swelling in the anus area along with pain. The color of the blood is darker comparatively. Skin tag remains once the external hemorrhoid is healed.
The disease can be divided into 4 different classifications based on the location, symptoms, and side- effects caused by their occurrence.
1. Internal hemorrhoids-
This condition is the least restrictive type of piles. The symptoms of this condition arise inside the rectum and are found on the border that divides the upper part of the anal canal from the lower of the rectum. Internal piles doesn’t cause too much discomfort to the patient as they are enclosed in an external lining called mucosa, which protects it from causing pain to the patient. This is because the mucosa is insensitive to temperature, touch, stretching or pain.
On the basis of the level of the protrusion, internal hemorrhoids can be classified in 4 levels-
2. External hemorrhoids-
This type of hemorrhoids is also known as a perianal hematoma. The side effects of this condition are usually bluish in color and feel painful and lumpy and are noticeable under the skin around the outer part of the anus.
This type of hemorrhoids is similar in nature to the above described prolapsed internal hemorrhoids. External hemorrhoids may lead to additional skin tags at the verge of the anus, which may feel very uncomfortable to the patient. This happens due to the fact that these hemorrhoids are covered by normal skin which causes discomfort.
The occurrence of these skin tags is caused by the clot of blood formed due to stretching of the overlying skin.
3. Thrombosed External Hemorrhoids-
Thrombosed external hemorrhoids occur due to the formation of a clot in various small veins which causes pain and discomfort to the patient. This type of hemorrhoids is characterized by the presence of a painful and hard lump in the anus. The main cause of this type of piles is the excessive stretching of the skin which covers hemorrhoid. This causes the splitting of the vein, making it inflamed and cutting off the blood supply in it.
4. Prolapsed Hemorrhoids-
This is a type of hemorrhoids which have fallen out of the anal canal. The most common symptoms of prolapsed hemorrhoids are bleeding in the stool, toilet or on the toilet paper. Most patients of this condition experience a feeling of not being able to completely pass stools. Prolapsed hemorrhoids can be quite painful because of the presence of nerves in them which can easily sense pain.
Pain can arise in prolapsed hemorrhoids because of the pain-sensing nerves within them. Other possible causes of pain are-
Swelling with hemorrhoid or abnormal accumulation of fluid in the hemorrhoid
Bleeding: Piles is a condition of inflamed anal blood vessels. They appear as a bump and can occur inside or outside of the anus. These bumps usually bleed at the time of bowel movements or when wiping with tissue paper. Blood appears bright red in color, if Piles is internal and brown-red in case of external piles.
Hemorrhoid exists in everybody but starts creating a problem when they swell up. Swollen hemorrhoid can make bowel movements uncomfortable and create pain at the time of defecating. The condition occurs when a blood clot forms inside hemorrhoid.
This is a common complain by people suffering from Piles. People experience incomplete bowel movement. They feel like they haven’t finished the movement and need to re-visit the bathroom to complete the process. This whole cycle is troublesome and the person experiences straining while attempting to pass a motion. Straining can make the piles worse.
Prolapse is the medical term used to define such condition. A mass of tissue is pushed from the anal canal due to straining caused by hard stool. Sometimes, the lump gets inside by pushing through fingers but at times it becomes painful and requires a surgical procedure to push it back on the place. There had been cases where prolapsed tissue reduces without any external aid. Presence of tissue can become a serious issue if left untreated, as it interferes with normal functioning including sitting, walking, etc.
A person suffering from Piles may experience swelling around the anus due to swollen blood vessels. The swollen blood vessels result in increased pressure in the lower rectal area. The increased pressure is due to a strain which develops because of bowel movements. Some of the causes of swelling around the anus are anal intercourse, pregnancy, sitting for long periods on the toilet, obesity, etc.
Inflamed piles causes leakage of mucus, which leads to inflammation of the skin around the anus. Inflammation is a burning sensation accompanied with itching and the condition is termed as Pruritis ani.
Some of the causes of skin itching include yeast infection, skin infections, pin worms and other parasites.
When an internal hemorrhoids bulge out of the anus, it brings along mucus which irritates the sensitive area surrounding the anus and leads to skin itchiness. If the lumps of tissue stay prolapsed, the production of mucus continues and resulting in skin prickling.
In case, mucus combines with stool, that combination results in irritation and thereby more itchiness.
Most people experience dry and sore anus area in piles. This is due to roughness caused by dry stools. Apart from that, there is a constant discharge of mucus which retains moisture all the time. This leads to prickling and redness in the area. If an individual faces such situations, one should go for a proper diagnosis to avoid further worsening of the condition. Some of the ways of diagnosis are mentioned below:
In the case of external hemorrhoids, the physician needs to examine the rectal area visually. In case of internal hemorrhoid, a doctor inserts a lubricated gloved finger into the rectum to check any unusual growth of lumps.
This diagnosis method is applied in case of internal hemorrhoid when a physician cannot see from the outside. This requires the application of viewing device such as proctoscope, sigmoidoscope, anoscope, etc.
It is performed for a detailed diagnosis of the entire colon. This test is performed to confirm if there are any signs and symptoms indicating another disease in the digestive system which may include colorectal cancer, ulcerative colitis, or Crohn's disease. Above symptoms can be irritating and cause inference in routine activities as well.
Since there are multiple types of hemorrhoids, they are all diagnosed differently.
Internal hemorrhoids can be diagnosed in the following ways-
This procedure may be additionally prescribed if the physician suspects any of the following situations in people who might have-
1. Any other disease related to digestive system
2. Signs and symptoms of colorectal cancer
3. Are over the age of 50, and have never undergone a rectal examination
External hemorrhoids can be identified by a physician by simply undertaking a physical exam and visual notice.
Veins have a tendency to swell up or bulge on the application of increased pressure. The various causes for swelling up of the veins, causing hemorrhoids are-
The excessive strain caused by pressure applied during a bowel movement
Sitting on the toilet bowl for too long
Constipation, Diarrhea or some other digestive system related problem
People over the age of 50 are more susceptible to hemorrhoids becomes over time, the veins in the anus and rectum that support their functioning tend to get overstretched or weak.
The mild swelling, inflammation, and pain caused hemorrhoids can be relieved or reduced by use of simple home remedies. A few of these remedies are mentioned below-
The symptoms of hemorrhoids generally subside within a week of following the above- stated remedies.
The most appropriate way to avoid getting hemorrhoids is to ensure that the stool to be passed by the anus is soft so that it passes easily.
Other than this, to prevent and reduce the occurrence of the symptoms of hemorrhoids, the following steps can be followed.
Although hemorrhoids can affect anyone, there are a few things that make a person more vulnerable to contract this disease. A few of these situations are-
Complications relating to hemorrhoids are very rare but may arise. The less commonly occurring but probable complications for patients with hemorrhoids are-
Piles can be painful and weakening but do not pose any serious risk to health. It can be self-managed to grade III, and grade IV may require surgery. Sometimes if a complication like a fistula develops, and it can become serious. The surgical options for piles usually take less time and recovers soon.
Myth #1- Elderly people are the only ones who can get hemorrhoids.
Reality- Hemorrhoids can affect people of any age. Although it is a stated fact that people between the age group of 45 to 60 are more susceptible to this disease, it can affect a person of any age.
Myth #2- Eating spicy foods can cause hemorrhoids.
Reality- Hemorrhoids is caused due to excessive pressure on the veins near the anus and rectum, causing them to swell and even bleed at few instances. Eating spicy food does not have anything to do with the occurrence of this disease.
Myth #3- The composition of the food being consumed does not affect hemorrhoids.
Reality- Constipation is one of the main causes behind developing hemorrhoids. It is quintessential to include fiber and water/ other fluids in the diet in order to have a soft bowel moment. This enables a person to avoid being susceptible to constipation and thus steer clear of being affected by hemorrhoids.
Myth #4- Surgery is the most common treatment for hemorrhoids.
Reality- Symptoms of this disease usually subside by making a few changes in the lifestyle as well as by using home remedies. Depending on the severity of the situation, a physician often prescribes a few an over-the-counter medicines and ointments to relieve pain and help the symptoms subside. It should be noted that surgery is the least common treatment for hemorrhoids.
Myth #5- Hemorrhoids causes cancer.
Reality- There is no evidence to associate colon cancer with hemorrhoids. Even though they have similar symptoms such as rectal bleeding, they can easily be differentiated by a physician on examination.
Myth #6- Once a person gets hemorrhoids, it will be a recurring problem for them.
Reality- People may develop hemorrhoids for a temporary duration due to a situation such as pregnancy, childbirth, constipation etc. Most available treatments of this condition are quite effective and are able to cure the problem fully. In case a person takes care of their diet and drinks a lot of fluid, they do not face this problem again.
Myth #7- Having hemorrhoids is a reason for embarrassment.
Reality- By the time most people turn 50, they would have faced the problem of piles at least once. In both men and women, the occurrence is common irrespective of their age and it is nothing to be embarrassed about.
Myth #8- Eating a lot of fiber eliminates the occurrence of piles completely.
Reality- Although inculcating fibrous food in the diet may help in preventing the development of hemorrhoids; it is not the only contributing factor to its occurrence. Long sitting, especially on the toilet, is also an influential factor in the occurrence of this condition. It is also advised to have at least eight glasses of water to ensure an easy bowel movement.
Myth #9- Hemorrhoids are difficult to treat.
Reality- There are multiple remedies available to treat both internal as well as external hemorrhoids.
All modes of treatment ranging from surgery to lifestyle change are effective and painless. Hemorrhoids that cause mild swelling, inflammation, and pain can easily be relieved or reduced by use of simple home remedies such as eating a high fiber diet, drinking plenty of water, taking over the counter ointments and oral medication etc.
Myth #10- Hemorrhoids can be caused by sitting on too hot or too cold surfaces.
Reality-The temperature of the surface you sit on does not affect cause piles. A habit of sitting in one place, especially on the toilet, makes a person more susceptible to having piles.
Ans: Various factors contribute to increasing the chances of getting hemorrhoids. A few of these factors are chronic constipation, consuming less fiber, applying excessive pressure during a bowel movement, being overweight, having long sitting periods.
Ans: Symptoms of hemorrhoids generally subside within two weeks of treatment. It should be noted that the general healing duration depends on the type of hemorrhoids.
Ans: - Internal hemorrhoids are not invasive and generally do not cause any pain or discomfort. In case of external hemorrhoids can lead to itching, cracking of the skin, rectal bleeding and discomfort. This experience can be extensively painful.
Ans: - While home remedies such as coconut oil and argan oil can be used to treat hemorrhoids, it is not advisable to use these in case of extreme conditions. Using a prescription medicine which is given by the doctor is the best solution one can opt for.
Ans: - It is possible to experience relief from the situation when one makes changes to their diet. The inclusion of fiber and more fluids in the diet enables a person to have easier bowel movements and smoother defecation.
Ans: - Depending on the intensity of the hemorrhoids, moderate to heavy blood can be seen as a symptom. A doctor must be consulted immediately to ascertain the exact cause of the bleeding.
Ans: Regular exercise and maintaining a healthy lifestyle often reduces the risk of having piles. In case you are already suffering from piles, it is advisable to stay away from rigorous weight training which has the ability to further strain the veins of the rectum, making the situation worse. However, light exercises can be done.
Ans: Internal hemorrhoids generally have symptoms which are easy to miss as they do not cause any pain or inconvenience to the patient. Having hemorrhoids is painful only if the excessive strain is applied to the veins of the anus and the rectum.
Ans: Cryotherapy is a medical treatment that enables the doctor to freeze the hemorrhoids. This causes the hemorrhoids to shrink and heal faster.
Ans: Thrombosis conventionally means clotting of blood. A thrombosed hemorrhoid is a swollen skin tag which is caused due to clotting of blood under the skin. The bigger the size of hemorrhoid more is the pain inflicted on the patient. It is generally treated by the doctor by rupturing the surface under local anesthesia and cleaning it thoroughly.
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