Hemorrhoids: what they are, symptoms, causes, natural treatments and prevention


A somehow taboo subject, hemorrhoids can go unnoticed, because sometimes the symptoms are missing or ignored. As serious as it is real, hemorrhoidal disease affects more than half of the world's people and is of 4 types. Fortunately, the treatments are affordable.

Some of the most widespread, common and troublesome conditions, hemorrhoids are a disease that develops in the anus, in much the same way that the veins swell in the legs and form varicose veins. "Piles" (as the hemorrhoids are also called) occur when the blood vessels in the rectal canal become inflamed or it cracks. Although the condition can be accompanied by pain, itching in the anal area or bloody stools, very few people seek medical help, due to a sense of shame. But healing can come as easily as the condition has set in.

Hemorrhoids should not change your social life. Even sometimes it is manifested by itching, pain or that everything seems worse when the symptoms include blood in the stool, swelling and inflammation in the rectal area, after a diagnosis made by a specialist, a treatment for hemorrhoids can prove effective in a short time. You can opt for an anti-hemorrhoid cream, medicines, suppositories or natural treatments, each improving the situation, so that - little by little - you will be able to return to the old lifestyle. First of all, you need to keep in mind that only a doctor can make a diagnosis, because hemorrhoids can be quite easily confused with anal fissures or colorectal cancer.

What are hemorrhoids?

Whether it is a strain during an intestinal movement or a condition that puts pressure on the lower abdomen (such as pregnancy or obesity), hemorrhoids form when the veins inside and around the anus stretch and swell abnormally. Although dilations of the mucous membranes cause pain, discomfort and burning sensation, manifested by itching or anal bleeding, people often delay to ask for help because they feel embarrassed.

For an effective treatment in the cure of hemorrhoids we must identify the symptoms, name the causes and risk factors. This health problem is a common one in the world, affecting the quality of life of people receiving the diagnosis. About 75% of the world's population has hemorrhoids at some point in their lives and half of all people will have them by the age of 50, with the mention that they do not show the same symptoms in case of every person. Hemorrhoids can affect both adults and children.

Hemorrhoids’ symptoms. The symptoms of hemorrhoids differ depending on their type, but they do not always manifest themselves, so it may be quite difficult to tell if you have them or not. Among the most common clues that may indicate that you suffer from hemorrhoids we can list the following:

  • feeling of discomfort, itching and pain around the anus;
  • blood seen on toilet paper or in the toilet bowl;
  • uncontrollable fecal leakage;
  • pain or bleeding during defecation;
  • inflamed veins or sensitive swellings in the anus area;
  • pain of slightly increased intensity in the area of the digestive tract;
  • swelling in the recto-anal area, which makes it uncomfortable to walk or stay in a sitting position;
  • irritation, pain and extreme itching around the anus;
  • constipation;
  • abscesses and anal fissures;
  • feeling weak.

Types of hemorrhoids

Hemorrhoids are of 4 types and each is cataloged according to various characteristics:

  1. Internal hemorrhoids: are those that are inside the rectum and are usually asymptomatic, causing bleeding. If they are large, they can cause discomfort to the patient, trigger pain, itching and burning.
  2. Prolabed hemorrhoids: occur when the internal ones go out or go down outside the anus, with the defecation, and have four degrees of development (4 being the most advanced). They may go unnoticed because they are not painful, but - in addition to the above symptoms - swelling may occur near the anus.
  3. External hemorrhoids: they are located near the anal orifice, directly on the surface where the elimination is done. It is the lightest form and the fact that they are right under the skin makes them more visible.
  4. Mixed hemorrhoids: are a combination of internal and external and occur when the dilated veins are arranged both inside and outside the anal canal.

Causes of hemorrhoids

Hemorrhoids can affect 3 out of 4 people at some point in life. Although adults aged 45-65 are most prone to this condition, young people can also be diagnosed. Among the most common causes that are associated with hemorrhoids the following have been observed:

  • chronic episodes of constipation or diarrhea;
  • straining during stools;
  • strong and forced intestinal movements;
  • increased pressure in case of pregnant women, due to enlargement of the uterus, which swells the veins in the colon;
  • inadequate muscle tone, which increases the pressure on the rectal veins, long period in sitting position (office work, incorrect posture, long driving, sitting for a long time in front of the TV);
  • damage to the hemorrhoidal veins, as a result of liver diseases;
  • anal sex;
  • stress.

Triggers for hemorrhoids

Hemorrhoid symptoms have several triggers, which worsen with age or weight gain:

  • lack of exercise or sedentary lifestyle;
  • demanding physical work, which involves lifting weights;
  • spicy foods that irritate the intestines;
  • alcohol consumed in excess;
  • tumors that put pressure on the veins in the rectum;
  • diagnoses such as hernia, cirrhosis, heart failure;
  • obesity;
  • advanced liver disease.

Risk factors

Among the risk factors that facilitate the development of hemorrhoidal disease, doctors identify:

  • aging;
  • lack of hydration;
  • low fiber diet;
  • medical causes (anal lesions, ascites, inflammatory bowel disease, colon cancer, irritable bowel syndrome);
  • excessive use of laxatives;
  • family history or genetic inheritance;
  • poor local hygiene;
  • obesity or overweight;
  • overload at the fitness room.

How can you fight hemorrhoids by natural methods?

The treatment according to your needs can be discussed individually with the doctor, who will establish a plan, depending on the degree of development of hemorrhoids. But there are some natural alternatives that can help you fight hemorrhoids and these include natural home remedies. Below are some tips if you want to try natural treatments for hemorrhoids:

  • Whitch Hazel water (Hamamelis virginiana) can be applied directly in liquid form on hemorrhoids, reducing both pain and itching. It also has an anti-inflammatory role, so it will clean the area, disinfecting it;
  • Aloe vera gel has been used since ancient times to treat hemorrhoids. With various properties, it can help reduce irritation if placed on the affected area;
  • Warm baths with bitter salt or Epsom salt soothe irritation of hemorrhoids. The efficiency is even better, as it stays in the bathtub for up to 20 minutes, thus reducing the pain;
  • Infusions with peony root (Paeonia oflicinalis) are a natural alternative in the treatment of hemorrhoids, because the roots are full of natural antioxidants, which reduce the itching and burning sensation. Treatment should not last more than 3 weeks and a doctor should monitor the progress;
  • An equally effective candidate in the treatment of hemorrhoids may be tea tree oil (Melaleuca alternifolia), especially in combination with castor oil (Ricinus communis); the mixture is applied directly to the affected area;
  • Olive oil can increase the elasticity of blood vessels, applied topically;
  • A mixture of lemon juice (a source of nutrients that successfully treats the problem), ginger and honey can be applied to the skin to combat inflammation and pain;
  • Coconut oil is a natural moisturizer that can help treat hemorrhoid symptoms. Once applied, in addition to reducing irritation, the need for scratching will decrease.

Other methods of treating hemorrhoids

  1. Apply local ointments (various special ointments for the treatment of hemorrhoids). They can reduce swelling and speed healing. One of the most recommended ingredients is hydrocortisone, but the use of hydrocortisone creams should be limited to 1 week (and accompanied by a doctor's recommendation).
  2. Give up toilet paper and use wet, soft wipes, which have a calming effect. In addition to cleaning the area, it will not aggravate the pain or unpleasant sensations. There are various wet wipes (mandatory without alcohol!) impregnated with various ingredients, especially for this condition.
  3. Occasionaly apply cold compresses, which last up to 15 minutes on the anus, to relieve swelling, in the case of large and painless hemorrhoids. Always wrap the ice in a towel and never apply any ice cream directly to the skin.
  4. Choose to eat grains (such as Psyllium bran), which can help reduce constipation and make bowel movement and feces much easier. In addition, you should give up spicy food and strong condiments.
  5. Repeat baths that last up to 20 minutes in warm water. Something so trivial can be extremely useful in treating hemorrhoids, if the exercise is repeated regularly. To dry the skin, use a soft towel.
  6. Outpatient therapy for grade 2 and 3 hemorrhoids may be elastic band ligation. Specifically, the hemorrhoids are tied with rubber rings at the base and after a certain period, no longer being vascularized, they begin to fall and the small wound that appears heals in a short time. The intervention is repeated every 2-3 weeks.
  7. Make some handy changes:
    → the symptoms of hemorrhoids can also be reduced by changing tight clothes and irritating materials, opting for cotton outfits (which let the skin breathe) and lighter;
    avoid washing clothes with scented detergents or conditioners that can irritate the skin;
    adopting a more active lifestyle can be effective, especially if it involves regular exercise; however, sports that can promote hemorrhoids should be avoided (cycling, motorcycling, horse riding etc.); → fluid intake is essential for a normal digestive process, which is why 8-10 glasses of water are recommended daily;
    include high-fiber foods in the diet that help digestion be easier (pears, strawberries, avocados, apples, bananas, carrots, beets, artichokes, quinoa, popcorn, whole grains, almonds, chia seeds, sweet potatoes, chocolate black, chickpeas, red beans, lentils);
    → get used to your body and digestive tract, "scheduling" the hours you go to the toilet; it would be preferable to go to the bathroom every day at the same time, the best time would be right after eating a meal and ideally not to sit "on the throne" for long periods.

Prevention of hemorrhoids

If you have been diagnosed with hemorrhoids, there are various treatment options. But it would be advisable to prevent their occurrence before the appearance of hemorrhoids. For that you have to take into account some details, such as:

  • go to the toilet right when you need it;
  • do not force yourself when you are on the toilet bowl;
  • do not turn the bathroom into a reading room and do not spend too much time sitting on the toilet;
  • re-evaluate your diet and make healthier food choices, while drinking enough water;
  • exercise on every occasion and do sports to improve your digestion;
  • consult a doctor if you notice changes in your health.

Complications of hemorrhoids

The longer the treatment for hemorrhoids is postponed, the greater the risk of complications. Although rare, such situations can be encountered:

  • anemia, if large amounts of blood are lost; symptoms include fatigue, fainting, weak body, pale skin;
  • hemorrhoidal thrombosis, if the blood clots in the hemorrhoidal vessels, meaning the hemorrhoids "strangle" and there are swellings with the size of a bean in the area of the anus; it manifests by acute pain.

When I need to got o a doctor?

The symptoms of hemorrhoids are easily confused with other diseases, so you should consult a doctor anyway, even if the signs seem familiar to you. A family doctor will ask for complete investigations to make an accurate diagnosis, based on a physical examination. The recommendation is to consult a doctor as soon as possible if:

  • you notice major changes in the intestinal transit;
  • the consistency of the stool is changed;
  • the stool is brown, with blood clots;
  • you feel dizzy, faint, tired.

Did you know that...?

  • the term “hemorrhoids” come from the Greek (“haema” meaning “blood” and “rhoos” meaning “flowing”)?
  • in the Middle Ages, they were called "the curse of St. Fiacre", the patron saint of gardeners?
  • hemorrhoids are not dangerous? The pain, itching, swelling and bleeding disappear after a few days, but the symptoms are similar to colorectal cancer, so a visit to the doctor is necessary for clarification.
  • if your parents had hemorrhoids, the chances of you suffering from them also increase?
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