- Hemorrhoids are one of the most common ailments known.
- More than half the population will develop hemorrhoids, usually after age 30.
- Millions of Americans currently suffer from hemorrhoids.
- The average person suffers in silence for a long period before seeking medical care.
- Today's treatment methods make some types of hemorrhoid removal much less painful.
- What are hemorrhoids?
Often described as "varicose veins of the anus and rectum", hemorrhoids are enlarged, bulging
blood vessels in and about the anus and lower rectum. There are two types of hemorrhoids:
external and internal, which refer to their location.
External (outside) hemorrhoids develop near the anus and are covered by very sensitive
skin. If a blood clot develops in one of them, a painful swelling may occur. The external
hemorrhoid feels like a hard, sensitive lump. It bleeds only if it ruptures.
Internal (inside) hemorrhoids develop within the anus beneath the lining. Painless
bleeding and protrusion during bowel movements are the most common symptom. However, an internal
hemorrhoid can cause severe pain if it is completely "prolapsed" - protrudes from the anal
opening and cannot be pushed back inside.
An exact cause is unknown; however, the upright posture of humans alone forces a great deal of
pressure on the rectal veins, which sometimes causes them to bulge. Other contributing factors
- Chronic constipation or diarrhea
- Faulty bowel function due to overuse of laxatives or enemas; straining during bowel movements
- Spending long periods of time (e.g., reading) on the toilet
Whatever the cause, the tissues supporting the veins stretch. As a result, the veins dilate;
their walls become thin and bleed. If the stretching and pressure continue, the weakened veins
If you notice any of the following, you could have hemorrhoids:
- Bleeding during bowel movements
- Protrusion during bowel movements
- itching in the anal area
- Sensitive lump(s)
No. There is no relationship between hemorrhoids and cancer. However, the symptoms of
hemorrhoids, particularly bleeding, are similar to those of colorectal cancer and other diseases
of the digestive system. Therefore, it is important that all symptom are investigated by a
physician specially trained in treating diseases of the colon and rectum. Do not rely on
over-the-counter medications or other self-treatments. See a colorectal surgeon first so
your symptoms can be properly evaluated and effective treatment prescribed.
Mild symptoms can be relieved frequently by increasing the amount of fiber (e.g., fruits,
vegetables, breads and cereals) and fluids in the diet. Eliminating excessive straining
reduces the pressure on hemorrhoids and helps prevent them from protruding. A sitz bath -
sitting in plain warm water for about 10 minutes - can also provide some relief
With these measures, the pain and swelling of most symptomatic hemorrhoids will decrease in two
to seven days, and the firm lump should recede within four to six weeks. In cases of severe,
persistent pain, your physician may elect to remove the hemorrhoid containing the clot with a
small incision. Performed under local anesthesia as an outpatient, this procedure generally
Severe hemorrhoids may require special treatment, much of which can be performed on an
Ligation - the rubber band treatment - works effectively on internal hemorrhoids that protrude
with bowel movements. A small rubber band is placed over the hemorrhoid, cutting off its blood
supply. The hemorrhoid and the band fall off in a few days and the wound usually heals in a
week or two. This procedure sometimes produces mild discomfort and bleeding.
Injection and Coagulation can also be used on bleeding hemorrhoids that do not protrude. Both
methods are relatively painless and cause the hemorrhoid to shrivel up.
Hemorrhoidectomy - surgery to remove the hemorrhoids - is the best method for the permanent
removal of hemorrhoids. It is necessary when (1) clots repeatedly form in external hemorrhoids;
(2) ligation fails to treat internal hemorrhoids; (3) the protruding hemorrhoid cannot be
reduced; or (4) there is persistent bleeding. A hemorrhoidectomy removes excessive tissue
that causes the bleeding and protrusion. It is done under anesthesia any may, depending upon
circumstances, require hospitalization and a period of inactivity. Laser hemorrhoidectomies
do not offer any advantage over standard operative techniques. They are also quite expensive,
and contrary to popular belief, are no less painful.
Other treatments include cryotherapy, BICAP coagulation and direct current. Cryotherapy,
popular 20 years ago, consists of freezing hemorrhoidal tissue. It is not recommended for
hemorrhoids because it is very painful. BICAP and direct current are methods that shrink
the hemorrhoid. None of these t reatments have gained widespread acceptance.