With over 50% of all adults experiencing hemorrhoids at some point in their lives, it’s a medical condition that’s all-too common. Despite how common it is, many people don’t quite know all that much about this condition, from the signs of hemorrhoids to potential treatments.
Let’s break it all down, so you can kick hemorrhoids to the curb.
What are hemorrhoids?
So, just what exactly are hemorrhoids, anyway?
Simply put, hemorrhoids are when veins in the rectum and/or anus become swollen and inflamed. Notably, hemorrhoids may be both internal (found inside the rectum) or external (protruding from under the skin in the anal region).
How are hemorrhoids treated?
Luckily, preventative measures, home remedies, and over-the-counter medications are often enough to treat the irritation and mild pain that result from this condition (don’t worry; we’ll discuss these in greater detail later on).
What are the symptoms of hemorrhoids?
Not sure if you are suffering from hemorrhoids? Consider the following symptoms before contacting your doctor…
An early indicator of hemorrhoids? Itching around or even in the anus.
How severe is the itching?
This itching may be mild to extreme in nature, depending on the size, number, and severity of the hemorrhoids present.
Itching is generally the result of internal hemorrhoids that protrude through the anus due to straining or prolonged sitting. Also known as prolapsed internal hemorrhoids, these protrusions produce mucus that can irritate the sensitive lining of the anus, causing itching and, in more severe cases, the following…
Intrinsically linked to the itching sensation produced by prolapsed internal hemorrhoids, irritation is also a common symptom of those suffering from this condition.
How severe is the irritation?
As with itching, the size and number of the hemorrhoids present will often dictate the severity of the irritation, as will the individual sufferer’s unique skin sensitivities.
Although not every case of hemorrhoids leads to irritation, many do. Specifically, the same mucus that causes itching can also irritate the anal lining, resulting in rawness or tenderness in this region.
The following sign of hemorrhoids? It’s easily spotted with the naked eye…
Although not all hemorrhoid sufferers will have visible physical symptoms, many do. These physical manifestations are often lumps of various sizes that can be found in or around the anus.
Are lumps the only external sign of hemorrhoids?
When external lumps aren’t present, general swelling of the anal region may also occur as a visible symptom of hemorrhoids.
Remember: hemorrhoids are the result of swollen or strained blood vessels. So, any visible or palpable lumps are simply these enlarged blood vessels protruding from beneath the skin.
Unfortunately, these protrusions can also lead to the following…
Less common than either itching or irritation, some people suffering from hemorrhoids will experience pain or discomfort inside the rectum or in the general region of the anus.
Hemorrhoids or something else?
Although this pain is not always a symptom of hemorrhoids and may indicate other concerning issues, moderate pain in conjunction with itching, irritation, or lumps could indicate that this irritating condition is to blame for your discomfort.
This pain may be the result of swelling of the blood vessels themselves or additional swelling in the immediate vicinity of the hemorrhoids.
Additionally, pain may occur at the site of intense irritation, where the raw skin is most susceptible to additional abrasions from clothing or from scratching to alleviate itching.
In severe cases, the following visible sign of hemorrhoids may occur…
In some cases, those who suffer from hemorrhoids will not experience significant pain or irritation, but may experience bleeding from the anus.
How severe is the bleeding?
This blood loss is generally minimal and rarely poses a significant health threat. However, the sight of blood may cause concern for sufferers who are not expecting it.
What does the bleeding often look like?
Bleeding due to hemorrhoids usually manifests as small spots of blood on toilet tissue after wiping or as dark red streaks present in passed stools.
Hemorrhoids are swollen or inflamed blood vessels. It therefore takes very little for those vessels to rupture. Additional straining due to constipation or other stresses on the hemorrhoids can cause the vessels to rupture, leading to limited bleeding.
Furthermore, external hemorrhoids can be abraded by forceful cleaning or scratching, which may also lead to bleeding.
Hemorrhoids or something else?
If the bleeding is constant or profuse, a physician should be consulted to rule out other possible causes.
Unfortunately, the following sign of hemorrhoids may further worsen bleeding…
6. Painful Bowel Movements
A direct result of significant swelling, some hemorrhoid sufferers may experience painful bowel movements in addition to general pain and/or bleeding.
How severe is the pain?
This pain can range from mild to relatively moderate, and will depend on the amount of swelling and number of hemorrhoids present.
It’s all about location. Specifically, the swollen blood vessels associated with hemorrhoids can make passing stool difficult and painful. Bowel movements can exert additional pressure on already swollen vessels, causing discomfort and ruptures.
Additionally, swollen tissue around the anus may be tender or raw from itching and irritation, which can make bowel movements even more painful as the stool comes into contact with the inflamed tissue.
Hemorrhoids or something else?
If the pain is intense or constant, a physician should be consulted to rule out other possible causes.
The following symptom of hemorrhoids can be relatively harmless although quite embarrassing…
7. Anal Leakage
In rare cases, those suffering from hemorrhoids may also experience minimal anal leakage. This leakage is generally considered the accidental discharge of fecal matter and/or mucus from the rectum.
Both internal and external hemorrhoids can contribute to anal leakage by disrupting or otherwise prohibiting the correct functioning of the rectum. Specifically, the resulting swelling and protrusions can make it difficult for the rectum to fully close. This inability to fully close allows small amounts of fecal matter and mucus to leak from the anal opening.
In turn, this leakage can further irritate the skin surrounding the anus, leading to further pain, irritation, and potential infection.
While this symptom is largely just annoying, that cannot be said of the following alarming symptom of hemorrhoids…
8. Blood Clots
Also reasonably rare, hemorrhoids can develop a blood clot inside the swollen vessel or lump.
Also known as a thrombosed hemorrhoid, this condition is often characterized by a sudden, sharp onset of pain in the anal region, followed by a constant pain after the initial onset.
What do thrombosed hemorrhoids look and feel like?
These thrombosed hemorrhoids also differ in appearance and feel from other hemorrhoids. They are typically more blue or purple in color and firmer to the touch than non-thrombosed hemorrhoids, for instance.
Hemorrhoids are effectively engorged lumps caused by swollen blood vessels. Sometimes, when the blood contained in these lumps is not allowed to flow freely, clots form.
In rare cases, this symptom of hemorrhoids can lead to the following…
A rare possible hemorrhoid symptom is iron deficiency anemia.
What is iron deficiency anemia?
Anemia refers to a condition in which someone lacks healthy oxygen-carrying red blood cells. When anemia is the direct result of an iron deficiency, it is known as iron deficiency anemia.
What are the symptoms of iron deficiency anemia?
Symptoms of anemia include:
- Shortness of breath
- Brittle nails
- Dry skin and hair
- Numbness or coldness in the hands or feet
- Irregular heartbeat
- Dry mouth
- Tongue swelling
Iron deficiency anemia is generally associated with blood loss. So, hemorrhoids rupture or otherwise bleed, anemia could be a possibility.
However, the blood loss must either be significant in volume or occurring over an extended period of time to put hemorrhoid sufferers in any true danger of anemia. If significant bleeding occurs, consult a physician to ensure that no other medical conditions are present.
Coming Up: Hemorrhoid Solutions
Hemorrhoids are a real pain in the behind. Fortunately, there are plenty of ways to fight this condition, such as the following…
Eat a High-Fiber Diet
The best defense against hemorrhoids is prevention. After all, the fewer hemorrhoids that develop, the less amount of treatment is needed.
Stop constipation in its tracks.
One way to reduce the occurrence of hemorrhoids? To limit instances of constipation. Why? Because constipation can generate stress, which leads to hemorrhoids. Essentially, the less stress put on the anus by straining to pass a hardened stool, the less likely hemorrhoids are to develop.
To prevent or reduce constipation bouts, people can do the following:
- Drink lots of water
- Eat a high-fiber diet
- Exercise regularly
- Avoid sitting for long periods
What are some high-fiber foods?
Foods high in fiber include:
- Whole wheat
- Brown rice
What about fiber supplements?
However, if constipation still occurs, various over-the-counter fiber supplements are available that can soften the stool and make bowel movements easier. Psyllium and methyl cellulose are common fiber supplements.
Of course, there are plenty of other non-medicated ways to find relief from hemorrhoid pain…
Non-Medicated Pain Relief
One of the most common complaints surrounding hemorrhoids? Pain. Therefore, because hemorrhoids are generally harmless and often resolve on their own, one of the most important aspects of hemorrhoid care is pain relief.
What are some non-medication methods for dealing with hemorrhoid pain?
A Warm Bath
For those wishing to avoid medication, soaking in a warm bath for 10-15 minutes every day.
A Sitz Bath
If a full bath is not an option, a sitz bath, which soaks only the anal region, can deliver the same benefits.
Additionally, sitting on heating pads, heated blankets, or hot water bottles for a similar amount of time can also alleviate minor pain or discomfort.
…Or Cold Compresses
To reduce swelling, a clean cold compress can be applied to the anal area as needed.
Patients suffering from hemorrhoid pain should continue to practice good hygiene, cleaning the affected area regularly with warm water during (and even between) regular daily baths or showers to relieve itching and prevent infection.
However, soap should generally be avoided, as the harsh chemicals in soap can aggravate hemorrhoids and cause additional pain.
Bye Bye, Toilet Paper
Finally, people with this condition should avoid using rough, dry toilet paper during wiping; instead, consider using baby wipes or other soft, moist wipes after each bowel movement.
Need relief now?
Many people don’t want to wait for pain relief. That’s why the following treatments for hemorrhoids are incredibly popular…
If the pain doesn’t go away or worsens, hemorrhoid sufferers may consider over-the-counter (OTC) pain relievers.
What are some popular OTC remedies?
One of the most common forms of over-the-counter hemorrhoid relief is topical treatments, such as hydrocortisone or hemorrhoid ointments or creams. They are used to relieve the itching and burning associated with this condition. The hope is that by doing so someone will be less likely to scratch the area, a behavior that can lead to further irritation.
If creams or ointments are not desirable, medicated suppositories offer a more convenient alternative. These suppositories are, as the name implies, inserted into the anus and left there to deliver medicated relief directly to the source of pain.
If the pain persists, patients should consider oral over-the-counter pain relievers like ibuprofen, aspirin, or acetaminophen.
When is a doctor necessary?
If the hemorrhoid pain persists or increases, it is important to discuss the condition with a physician to rule out other, more serious, medical conditions.
It is also important to never begin a pain-relief regimen without express permission from a doctor.
In some cases, the following treatment may be necessary to banish hemorrhoids…
Ideally, hemorrhoids should resolve on their own with only minimal need for pain relief or additional treatments.
However, if the hemorrhoids:
- do not resolve,
- continue to appear on a regular basis,
- become intensely painful,
- bleed profusely, or
- become infected,
a physician should be consulted.
What surgical interventions are common?
Depending upon the size and severity of the hemorrhoids in question, the doctor may recommend either a rubber band ligation or sclerotherapy.
What is rubber band ligation?
Rubber band ligation is a procedure that cuts off circulation to the hemorrhoid through the use of a rubber band placed around the protrusion. Once placed, this band reduces the blood flow to the hemorrhoid, causing it to shrink.
A relatively simple procedure, ligation can cause some discomfort at the sight of the band, and should only be performed by a licensed medical professional.
What is sclerotherapy?
Sclerotherapy, also known as injection therapy, may be an option for patients who cannot undergo rubber band ligation. For sclerotherapy, the doctor injects a chemical compound directly into the blood vessel feeding the hemorrhoid, causing it to shrink in size.
What’s most important for those who think they have hemorrhoids to know?…
Kick Hemorrhoids to the Curb
Ultimately, hemorrhoids are common and often require little treatment as they generally resolve on their own without significant medical intervention.
Fortunately, hemorrhoids are easily managed.
Common symptoms—including itching, irritation, lumps, pain and, blood—are easy to manage with over-the-counter pain relievers and home remedies. More importantly, correct diet, exercise, and sufficient water intake can greatly reduce the risk of developing hemorrhoids.
When are hemorrhoids a problem?
However, some severe cases can lead to painful bowel movements, anal leakage, blood clots, and even anemia. So, care should always be take when assessing your symptoms. If significant symptoms arise or persist, a physician should be consulted to rule out other, more dangerous, conditions. In some cases, surgical courses of treatment are necessary.