Piles also known as hemorrhoids are swollen veins in the anus and rectum. They are a common condition, affecting up to half of all adults at some point in their lives. Hemorrhoids can develop inside the rectum, called internal hemorrhoids, or under the skin around the anus, called external hemorrhoids. They are similar to varicose veins that can form in the legs.
They are more common in people who are pregnant, overweight or have a family history of hemorrhoids. It can be diagnosed with a physical examination of the anus and rectum. Your doctor may also ask you about your medical history and symptoms. In some cases, further tests like proctoscopy or anoscopy, may be needed to rule out other conditions.
Common Causes of Piles
The exact cause of hemorrhoids is unknown but they are thought to be caused by increased pressure in the veins of the rectum and anus. The following factors can contribute to the development of hemorrhoids:
Straining during Bowel Movements: Putting excessive pressure while passing stool can lead to the development of hemorrhoids.
Chronic Constipation or Diarrhea: Irregular bowel habits can cause undue stress on the blood vessels in the anal region.
Lifestyle: Lack of physical activity can impair blood circulation, increasing the risk of hemorrhoids.
Pregnancy and Childbirth: The increased pressure on the pelvic area during pregnancy can lead to the development of hemorrhoids. Additionally, the strain during childbirth can exacerbate the condition.
Aging: As we age, the tissues supporting the blood vessels in the rectum and anus can weaken, making hemorrhoids more likely.
Symptoms of Hemorrhoids
The most common symptom of piles is bleeding after a bowel movement. The blood is usually bright red and may be visible on toilet paper or in the toilet bowl. Other symptoms of piles can be:
- Itching or pain around the anus
- A lump near the anus
- A feeling of fullness in the rectum after a bowel movement
- Mucus discharge from the anus
Prevention and Treatment
Preventing hemorrhoids involves adopting healthy lifestyle habits:
Eating High-Fiber Diet: Including plenty of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains in your diet can help regulate bowel movements, reducing the risk of straining.
Stay Hydrated: Drinking an adequate amount of water helps keep stools soft, making them easier to pass.
Regular Exercise: Engaging in physical activity promotes healthy blood circulation, reducing the risk of hemorrhoids.
Avoid Long Sitting: Take breaks and move around if you have a long-sitting job.
Avoid sitting on the toilet for long periods of time. If you need to sit on the toilet for more than a few minutes, get up and move around every few minutes.
Hygiene: Clean the anal area gently after bowel movements to prevent irritation.
Treatment options for hemorrhoids range from lifestyle modifications to medical interventions:
Topical Treatments: Over-the-counter creams or ointments can provide relief from itching and discomfort.
Sitz Baths: Soaking in warm water can help reduce swelling and soothe the affected area.
Dietary Supplements: Fiber supplements can aid in softening stools and preventing constipation.
Minimally Invasive Procedures: In severe cases, procedures like rubber band ligation or sclerotherapy may be recommended.
Hemorrhoids, though common, should not be dismissed lightly. Understanding the causes, symptoms, and preventive measures can significantly improve one’s quality of life. By adopting a balanced lifestyle and seeking timely medical attention when needed, you can effectively manage and alleviate the discomfort associated with hemorrhoids.