Hemorrhoids are swollen veins in the anal canal and are a very common problem. Discomfort and pain, itching, burning and bleeding are some of the symptoms. In many cases, your Charleston Gastroenterology Center doctor may suggest a treatment plan that you can follow at home. In some cases, surgery may be necessary. The important thing is to rule out other problems. So additional tests may be required. To make sure you get the right steps for relief and for your special situation, make an appointment to see your Charleston Gastroenterology Center doctor. The sooner you can schedule an appointment with one of our doctors, the sooner he can recommend a treatment plan for your relief.

Causes, incidence, and risk factors

This condition is very common, especially during pregnancy and after childbirth. Hemorrhoids result from increased pressure in the veins of the anus. The pressure causes the veins to bulge and expand, making them painful, particularly when you are sitting.

The most common cause is straining during bowel movements. Hemorrhoids may result from constipation, sitting for long periods of time, and anal infections. In some cases they may be caused by other diseases, such as liver cirrhosis.

Internal hemorrhoids occur just inside the anus, at the beginning of the rectum. External hemorrhoids occur at the anal opening and may hang outside the anus.

Symptoms

Symptoms of hemorrhoids include:

  • Anal itching
  • Anal ache or pain, especially while sitting
  • Bright red blood on toilet tissue, stool, or in the toilet bowl
  • Pain during bowel movements
  • One or more hard tender lumps near the anus

Signs and tests

A doctor can often diagnose hemorrhoids simply by examining the rectal area. If necessary, tests that may help diagnose the problem include:

  • Stool guaiac (shows the presence of blood)
  • Sigmoidoscopy
  • Anoscopy

Treatments

Over-the-counter corticosteroid creams can reduce pain and swelling. Hemorrhoid creams with lidocaine can reduce pain. Witch hazel (applied with cotton swabs) can reduce itching. Other steps for anal itching include:

Wear cotton undergarments.
Avoid toilet tissue with perfumes or colors.
Try not to scratch the area.

Sitz baths can help you to feel better. Sit in warm water for 10 to 15 minutes. Stool softeners help reduce straining and constipation.

For cases that don’t respond to home treatments, a surgeon or gastroenterologist can apply heat treatment, called infrared coagulation, to shrink internal hemorrhoids. This may help avoid surgery. Surgery that may be done to treat hemorrhoids includes rubber band ligation or surgical hemorrhoidectomy. These procedures are generally used for patients with severe pain or bleeding who have not responded to other therapy.

Expectations (prognosis)

Most treatments are effective, but to prevent the hemorrhoids from coming back, you will need to maintain a high-fiber diet and drink plenty of fluids.

Complications

The blood in the enlarged veins may form clots, and the tissue surrounding the hemorrhoids can die. Hemorrhoids with clots generally require surgical removal.

Severe bleeding may also occur. Iron deficiency anemia can result from prolonged loss of blood. Significant bleeding from hemorrhoids is unusual, however.

Preventions

Avoid straining during bowel movements. You can help prevent hemorrhoids by preventing constipation. Drink plenty of fluids, at least eight glasses per day. Eat a high-fiber diet of fruits, vegetables, whole grains. Consider fiber supplements.