Almost all women would have had a fleeting experience with hemorrhoids during their pregnancy period. However, by middle age, more than half the population will encounter hemorrhoids as an ongoing problem.
What are Hemorrhoids?
Technically speaking, all of us have hemorrhoids. There are three cushiony pads of tissue found in the anal passage, within which lie tiny clusters of veins. These pillow-like structures are found just beneath the mucous membranes that line the lower end of the rectum. These hemorrhoids become problematic in nature when the veins within begin to swell up and get expanded due to various reasons. Sometimes, they can even prolapse outward, making the condition more bothersome and painful.
The classic symptoms of hemorrhoids are –
– Itching and/or burning sensation felt around the rectal opening
– Excruciating pain felt while having bowel movements
– Blood in stools
– Lumps felt at the anal opening from possible prolapse of internal hemorrhoids
Types of Hemorrhoids
There are two types – a) internal, and b) external.
Internal hemorrhoids develop within the anal passage, but closer to the anal opening. This form of hemorrhoids is a rather painless one, even when bleeding is observed. Blood in stools or on the toilet paper, or spots of blood in the toilet bowl will usually be the indication of the presence of internal hemorrhoids.
Internal hemorrhoids could also prolapse and extend beyond the anal opening, and this is when it becomes a painful condition. Microscopic fecal matter and mucus secretions can get collected around these swollen lumps of tissue leading to several other potential problems.
External hemorrhoids could be prolapse of internal hemorrhoids or development of hemorrhoids under the skin surrounding the anal opening.
A detailed examination will need to be carried out to rule out any other causes for the discomfort felt by the sufferer around their anal area. A flexible sigmoidoscopy or a colonoscopy will have to be done to rule out the presence of rectal polyps or cancerous conditions within that may be contributing to the bleeding from rectum. Usually a digital rectal exam or examination with an anoscope will reveal the presence of internal hemorrhoids.
External hemorrhoids are readily apparent from a simple physical examination.
Treating Internal Hemorrhoids
Any one of these four methods mentioned below will be utilized to treat internal hemorrhoids.
Rubber Band Ligation – In this particular procedure, as the name suggests, rubber bands are used to tie off the hemorrhoids at its base, which will cut blood flow to it.
With the help of an anoscope, the hemorrhoid is grasped with a surgical instrument and a specialized device is used to rotate the band around the base of the hemorrhoid. In a week’s time, the hemorrhoid will shrink and shrivel up, eventually falling off on its own.
Injection Sclerotherapy – As an alternative to banding with rubber bands, injection sclerotherapy may be performed wherein a chemical solution is injected into the hemorrhoid. This will numb the area and cause the hemorrhoid to harden and dwindle, causing it to fall off as time goes by.
Infrared/Laser Coagulation – During this procedure, an infrared/laser probe is used that will aim several bursts of infrared light/laser beams on to the hemorrhoids to cut off blood circulation to it. Once coagulation is achieved, the hemorrhoids over the next couple of days will shrink in size and may fall off eventually.
Hemorrhoidectomy – Here, the hemorrhoidal tissue is removed in totality surgically and usually done to treat large hemorrhoids. After the surgery, absorbable sutures and dressings are placed. The packing and dressings will be removed once the healing process begins.
Total removal of hemorrhoids via hemorrhoidectomy is a major surgical procedure and considered only when the other treatment options prove to be ineffective for the sufferer.