What is a Hemorrhoid?
Hemorrhoids, when functioning normally, are simply a grouping of veins that amongst other things help regulate the movement of stool out of the body. What people complain about hemorrhoids, they are actually referring to a painful condition when those blood vessels become inflamed. This is a very common condition, which increases in prevalence as we age. Over 10 million Americans suffer from hemorrhoids.
While hemorrhoids are rarely dangerous or life-threatening, left untreated, they can compromise a patient’s lifestyle. Daily activities such as sitting and bodily functions such as bowel movements can also be impaired and very painful. Of course, the severity and location of the hemorrhoid can make a difference both in the treatment options available to the patient and the pain caused.
Internal & External Hemorrhoids
Hemorrhoids can be internal or external. However, many patients have both types.
Internal hemorrhoids are not visible and cannot be felt. Any pain they cause is usually aggravated by bowel movements. They can become visible and can be felt if they prolapse, or exit the anal sphincter during a bowel movement or strain. For the most part, prolapsed internal hemorrhoids will correct themselves. However, permanently protruded internal hemorrhoids may require treatment.
External hemorrhoids are just inside the anal cavity. External hemorrhoids can be very painful and cause burning and/or itching. External hemorrhoids may require medical treatment.
Causes of Hemorrhoids
We do not fully understand the cause of hemorrhoids. However, because of our natural upright posture, a significant amount of strain is placed on veins in the anal canal. This may be one of the reasons why hemorrhoids occur.
There are however various risk factors that increase the likelihood of developing hemorrhoids. These include:
- Irregular bowel movements or constipation
- Overuse of laxatives
- Spending too much time on the toilet
Patients have several options when treating hemorrhoids. They may or may not be effective depending on the type and severity of the hemorrhoid. These can range from lifestyle changes, topical creams, rubber band ligation, and surgery, depending on the severity of the hemorrhoid. Learn more about hemorrhoid surgery or a minimally invasive procedure called Transanal Hemorrhoidal Dearterialization (THD)