What are Hemorrhoids?
Hemorrhoids, also called piles, are dilated, twisted (varicose) veins located in the wall of the rectum and anus. Hemorrhoids occur when the veins in the rectum or anus become enlarged.
They are swollen and inflamed veins around the anus or in the lower rectum. The rectum is the last part of the large intestine leading to the anus. The anus is the opening at the end of the digestive tract where bowel contents leave the body. External hemorrhoids are located under the skin around the anus.
Hemorrhoids that form above the boundary between the rectum and anus (anorectal junction) are called internal hemorrhoids. Internal hemorrhoids develop in the lower rectum. Internal hemorrhoids may protrude, or prolapse, through the anus. Most prolapsed hemorrhoids shrink back inside the rectum on their own. Severely prolapsed hemorrhoids may protrude permanently and require treatment.
Hemorrhoids that form below the anorectal junction are called external hemorrhoids.
Both internal and external hemorrhoids may remain in the anus or protrude outside the anus. External hemorrhoids may become inflamed or develop a blood clot (thrombus). Internal hemorrhoids may bleed.
What are the Symptoms of Hemorrhoids?
The most common symptom of internal hemorrhoids is bright red blood on stool, on toilet paper, or in the toilet bowl after a bowel movement. Internal hemorrhoids that are not prolapsed are usually not painful. Prolapsed hemorrhoids often cause pain, discomfort, and anal itching. Blood clots may form in external hemorrhoids.
A blood clot in a vein is called a thrombosis. Thrombosed external hemorrhoids cause bleeding, painful swelling, or a hard lump around the anus. When the blood clot dissolves, extra skin is left behind. This skin can become irritated or itch. Excessive straining, rubbing, or cleaning around the anus may make symptoms, such as itching and irritation, worse.
Hemorrhoids are not dangerous or life threatening. Symptoms usually go away within a few days, and some people with hemorrhoids never have symptoms.
Hemorrhoids Are Often Confused With Anal Fissures
When people see spots of blood on the toilet paper and have pain with bowel movements, they often immediately think it's hemorrhoids when the problem may really be a small but painful tear called an anal fissure.
Anal fissures are often caused by constipation. If stools are dry and hard, the anal sphincter is forced open wider than normal, resulting in a tear, or anal fissure. There are often some spots of bright red blood on the toilet paper.
Anal fissures also cause a sharp, stinging, often severe pain with the passage of each bowel movement (whereas hemorrhoids often cause bleeding but no pain).
How common are Hemorrhoids?
About 75 percent of people will have hemorrhoids at some point in their lives. Hemorrhoids are most common among adults ages 45 to 65. Hemorrhoids are also common in pregnant women.
What causes Hemorrhoids?
Swelling in the anal or rectal veins causes hemorrhoids. Several factors may cause this swelling, including
Another cause of hemorrhoids is the weakening of the connective tissue in the rectum and anus that occurs with age. Pregnancy can cause hemorrhoids by increasing pressure in the abdomen, which may enlarge the veins in the lower rectum and anus. For most women, hemorrhoids caused by pregnancy disappear after childbirth.
How are Hemorrhoids Diagnosed?
The doctor will examine the anus and rectum to determine whether a person has hemorrhoids. Hemorrhoid symptoms are similar to the symptoms of other anorectal problems, such as fissures, abscesses, warts, and polyps.
The doctor will perform a physical exam to look for visible hemorrhoids. A digital rectal exam with a gloved, lubricated finger and an anoscope-a hollow, lighted tube-may be performed to view the rectum.
A thorough evaluation and proper diagnosis by a doctor is important any time a person notices bleeding from the rectum or blood in the stool. Bleeding may be a symptom of other digestive diseases, including colorectal cancer.
Additional exams may be done to rule out other causes of bleeding, especially in people age 40 or older:
Natural Remedies for Hemorrhoids
Here are five natural remedies that are used for hemorrhoids.
Fiber shows a consistent beneficial effect in relieving hemorrhoid symptoms and bleeding. It can soften stool and increase its bulk, which helps to reduce straining.
There are plenty of ways to get more fiber. Start by eating foods high in fiber, such as whole grains and vegetables. Psyllium, a powdered fiber supplement, is another option, one that's inexpensive and readily available. A typical amount of psyllium is one teaspoon of the husks in water followed by another glass of water.
Another option is ground flaxseeds. Whatever the source of fiber, it's important to drink sufficient water or constipation may worsen.
Bioflavonoids are a type of plant compound that are thought to work by stabilizing and strengthening blood vessel walls and by decreasing inflammation. They have been found to reduce anal discomfort, pain, and anal discharge during an acute hemorrhoid attack. Side effects of bioflavonoids appear to be mild and rare, making them a promising treatment for hemorrhoids in pregnancy (the flavonoid tangeretin however, shouldn't be used by people taking tamoxifen for breast cancer).
The major flavonoids found in citrus fruits, diosmin, herperidin, and oxerutins, appear to be beneficial. Daflon, a product made with citrus bioflavonoids was found to improve symptoms in pregnant women by day four of taking it and to reduce symptoms of pain, heaviness, bleeding, itching and discharge.
3) Witch Hazel Compress or Cream
This drug store staple is made from the leaves and bark of a plant called Hamamelis virginiana. It is not be taken internally but is instead applied topically to the anal area in the form of witch hazel distilled liquid, ointment, or medicated pads.
Witch hazel is thought to decrease the bleeding of hemorrhoids by acting as an astringent. It may also relieve pain, itching and swelling associated with hemorrhoids.
4) Butcher's Broom
The plant butcher's broom (Ruscus aculeatus), which is also known as knee holly, box holly, and sweet broom, gets its name because it was once used by butchers in Europe to clean their chopping blocks. Butcher's broom has a long history of traditional use for hemorrhoids and varicose veins. It is often used when there is underlying poor circulation in the veins.
How does butcher's broom work? Although scientists haven't confirmed the effectiveness of butcher's broom for hemorrhoids, butcher's broom extract contains anti-inflammatory and vein-contricting properties that are believed to improve the tone and integrity of veins and shrink the swollen tissue. The active compound is called ruscogen.
Butcher's broom is usually recommended in capsule or tea form. The tea has a slightly bitter taste, so a bit of stevia or honey can be used to sweeten it. The tea can be made by steeping one teaspoon of the herb in a cup of hot water for 10 to 15 minutes. Butchers broom has also been shown to be effective when applied topically as an ointment or compress.
Butcher's broom should not be used by people with high blood pressure, benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH), by pregnant or nursing women, or by people taking alpha blocker or MAO inhibitor drugs unless otherwise recommended by their doctor.
5) Horse Chestnut
The herb horse chestnut (Aesculus hippocastanum), like Butchers broom, is often recommended when there is poor circulation in the veins, or chronic venous insufficiency. In folk medicine, it is used to relieve symptoms such as swelling and inflammation and strengthen blood vessel walls. The active compound is believed to be aescin.
Horse chestnut can be taken as a tea or in capsule form. It can also be applied externally as a compress. People with an allergy to the horse chestnut family, bleeding disorders, or people taking blood thinners should not take horse chestnut. Only products made from the seeds or bark of the young branches should be used. Other parts of the plant are poisonous. Although uncommon, side effects have included kidney damage, severe bleeding, bruising, and liver damage.
6) Other Natural Remedies
Triphala. An Ayurvedic compound of three fruits. It is well-known as a bowel tonic that gently relieves constipation without being a harsh stimulant.
Topical application of chamomile or calendula. Can be applied as a compress or ointment.
What foods have Fiber?
Beans, Cereals, and Breads Fiber
1/2 cup of navy beans 9.5 grams
1/2 cup of kidney beans 8.2 grams
1/2 cup of black beans 7.5 grams
Whole-grain cereal, cold
1/2 cup of All-Bran 9.6 grams
3/4 cup of Total 2.4 grams
3/4 cup of Post Bran Flakes 5.3 grams
1 packet of whole-grain cereal, hot 3.0 grams
1 whole-wheat English muffin 4.4 grams
1 medium apple, with skin 3.3 grams
1 medium pear, with skin 4.3 grams
1/2 cup of raspberries 4.0 grams
1/2 cup of stewed prunes 3.8 grams
1/2 cup of winter squash 2.9 grams
1 medium sweet potato with skin 4.8 grams
1/2 cup of green peas 4.4 grams
1 medium potato with skin 3.8 grams
1/2 cup of mixed vegetables 4.0 grams
1 cup of cauliflower 2.5 grams
1/2 cup of spinach 3.5 grams
1/2 cup of turnip greens 2.5 grams
Prevention of Hemorrhoids
The three basics that may reduce hemorrhoids symptoms are:
Points to Remember