What are hemorrhoids?
The anal canal, located within the rectum, measures 4 cm and is the last piece of passageway through which stools pass as they leave the body. Within this canal, there exist areas of tissue and the blood vessels supplying them - these are known as hemorrhoids. Tissue around the hemorrhoid (supporting tissue) is fixed to the anal canal walls by muscle and elastic fibrous tissue.
What are the symptoms of hemorrhoids?
Some hemorrhoids, namely internal hemorrhoids, simply cause pressure and do not actually cause much if any pain and so can lie undetected for quite a period of time.
A clear visible symptom of a hemorrhoid is one that has actually prolapsed i.e. it has grown so large that it has fallen and now protrudes out of the anal canal.
Sometimes, when a stool has to pass by a hemorrhoid, it can cause pain and some bleeding, especially when passing a hard stool.
Anal itching can also be a sign of hemorrhoids, as the anus sometimes is moist and leaks stool.
Hemorrhoids affect approximately 4% of the population. Unlike most other bodily ailments however, it is not totally clear as to how hemorrhoids are formed but there are many theories.
Some of the causes of hemorrhoids are believed to be:
Straining to pass stools - if sufficient force is used trying to expel stools, it is thought that the hard stool can pull the hemorrhoidal tissue down towards the anal entrance
Not enough fiber in the diet - related to the point above, insufficient fiber can cause constipation and thus the need for straining to pass stools from the body
Pregnancy - it is not clear as to why pregnant woman are more susceptible to hemorrhoids but they are in a higher risk group
Age - hemorrhoids are secured to the anal canal wall muscles by supporting tissue. With age, it is thought that this supporting tissue starts to break down, resulting in the hemorrhoid becoming loose and slips down towards the anal opening
As with any medical ailment, if you think you are starting to display signs or symptoms of hemorrhoids, do some internet research to try and find out some more information in the first instance. Some countries governmental internet resources offer an online diagnosis by answering questions via an automated questionnaire.
After your research, if you then suspect you have a hemorrhoid, it's best to talk to your local pharmacist in the first instance or go and see your local general practitioner for more information and a certain diagnosis. Hemorrhoids left untreated can cause problems at a later stage, so get it checked out as soon as you can.
There are various treatments these days depending on the severity of the hemorrhoid. They include:
Over-the-counter medicines - creams, drugs, suppositories etc., can relieve symptoms of itching and inflammation
Prescription medicines - stronger medications only to be taken with caution and prescribed by your doctor
Nonsurgical procedures - a procedure that can be carried out without the need for incisions etc.
Surgical procedures - for later stages of hemorrhoid where outpatient treatment is needed