The area around your rectum and anus has clusters of veins that serve a useful purpose in helping to retain air, liquid and stool. When these veins become swollen or inflamed, we refer to them as hemorrhoids. There are different types of hemorrhoids; external hemorrhoids are located under the skin around the anus while internal hemorrhoids develop in the lower rectum and 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.
Symptoms of hemorrhoids include:
- Anal itching
- Anal swelling or discomfort or pain
- Bright red rectal bleeding
- Fullness in anal area
Risk factors for developing hemorrhoids include:
- Age: most common among adults 45
- Chronic constipation or diarrhea
- Straining with exercise or bowel movement
When to See a Doctor
For many people, hemorrhoid symptoms are mild and respond well to over-the-counter or home remedies. If your symptoms concern you (especially if you have rectal bleeding), are persistent or interfere with your quality of life, it’s time for a thorough evaluation and consultation with a specialist. Hemorrhoids can be treated effectively and comfortably in the privacy of your doctor’s office.
Treatment options for individuals with hemorrhoids vary and may include the following:
- Follow a special diet, high in fiber
- Drink plenty of fluids
- Topical medications for external hemorrhoids
- Non-surgical treatments, such as hemorrhoid banding or infrared coagulation (IRC)
- Surgical treatments such as excision of external hemorrhoids
The foremost diagnostic "test" for any condition is a thorough exam and consultation with a physician, including a review of your individual and family history. In addition, your physician may recommend any of the following tests or procedures, which may provide further diagnostic value:
It is not always possible to prevent hemorrhoids but some diet and lifestyle changes may help avoid them or reduce and relieve your symptoms.
Learn more about hemorrhoids and hemorrhoid treatment from the following resources: