Hemorrhoid, sometimes known as piles, is area of veins in the rectum that become irritated or inflamed. This irritation and inflammation may cause itching, and when an individual defecates, there may be blood in the stool, blood dripping into the toilet, or blood on the tissue. In serious cases, an internal hemorrhoid will protrude through the anus, causing rectal leaking. While hemorrhoid generally only causes discomfort, if a blood clot develops (a thrombosed hemorrhoid), pain, swelling, and other serious complications may result.
Causes of Hemorrhoid
Hemorrhoid symptoms are caused when the pressure in the veins around the rectum is increased. This may be cause by constipation, as hard stools are much tougher to pass. The increased strain to have a bowel movement puts more pressure on the veins around the rectum, and may result in hemorrhoid. Diarrhea may also lead to hemorrhoid, as the repeated bowel movements of loose stools can inflame existing hemorrhoid (especially if this leads to excessive cleaning of the anal area which can lead to more irritation). Other causes of hemorrhoid include prolonged sitting, anal intercourse, pregnancy, and advancing age (as the tissues holding the veins around the rectum become thinner and cannot protect them as well). Finally, conditions that increase the pressure on an individual’s veins, like cirrhosis, can also lead to hemorrhoid.
Types of Hemorrhoid
There are two types of hemorrhoid, internal ones, which are located inside the rectum, and external hemorrhoids, which are located under the skin around the anus. A person may have one or both types.
Prevention of Hemorrhoid
The easiest way to prevent hemorrhoid is stave off constipation. Hard stools are the most common cause of hemorrhoid. Individuals should attempt to stay hydrated, and eat diets high in fiber from whole grains, fruits, and vegetables. Individuals should also not suppress the urge to move the bowels, as this causes the stool to dry and harden. Finally, dehydrating liquids such as coffee and soda should be avoided if possible. Another way to prevent constipation is to get regular exercise. Exercise not only prevents periods of long sitting (which can cause hemorrhoid), but it also loosens the stool and helps individuals to lose weight (which in turn reduces vein pressure around the rectum).
Symptoms of Hemorrhoid
Persons with hemorrhoid may experience discomfort when performing bowel movements, and will often find blood in their stool. If left untreated, serious complications may result.
How Hemorrhoid is Diagnosed
Hemorrhoid is usually discovered by finding blood in the stool (since the blood is fresh, it will usually appear to be bright red). Still, it is possible that the blood will not be visible in the stool, which is called occult blood. Once an individual sees blood in their stool, they should visit a doctor immediately. Blood is not only a sign of hemorrhoids, but may also signal that more serious illnesses are present, such as colon cancer.
Doctors may diagnose external hemorrhoid by simply looking at the rectal area. Internal hemorrhoid are diagnosed by using a lubricated glove during the rectal exam. However, because some hemorrhoid are too small to feel with the hand, stool smears are often taken to chemically test for any occult bleeding.
If the condition becomes difficult to diagnose, an internal examination called sigmoidoscopy may be necessary. Weeding consists of using a long, thin flexible tube, equipped with a camera and a light on the end (an endoscope), to examine the lining of the anus and/or lower intestine to check for lesions or polyps. If colon cancer is suspected, a colonoscopy, which examines the entire colon, may be necessary.
Hemorrhoid Possible Treatments
While surgery may be necessary for the most serious cases, a number of other treatment options for hemorrhoid are available. First, it is recommended that individuals partake in a diet that is high in fiber, which reduces the risk of hemorrhoid. Fiber supplements, such as psyllium and methylcellulose, may also help to prevent hemorrhoid and bleeding from the rectum. Individuals can prevent or treat moderate cases of hemorrhoid by taking warm baths, which are better than showers in terms of treatment. However, individuals should not use soap in the rectal area, as it may dry the skin and cause irritation.
Some herbal remedies may be able to treat hemorrhoid as well. Fargelin, a Chinese herbal remedy, may be used to ease hemorrhoid by improving circulation to the rectum. An irritated digestive tract may be helped by slippery elm and marshmallow. Cyprus oil, added to bathwater, may help heal the veins of the rectum. Other herbs which may be used to treat hemorrhoids include the following:
Comfrey (Symphytum officionale) is an anti-inflammatory chemical which heals wounds, strengthens the immune system, and makes the skin’s healing process proceed more quickly. It is best used to treat hemorrhoid by adding it to vegetable oil and applying it as a paste to the skin.
Plaintains (Plantago) are known as a hemorrhoid remedy in the folk tradition. Plantains contain allantonin, a soothing chemical also found in Comfrey, and may be applied on the skin.
Psyllium (plantago ovate) was found relieve pain, itching, and discomfort during defecation in 84% of patients. Psyllium absorbs water in the stomach, makes the stool larger, and triggers the urge to have a bowel movement, preventing constipation. Persons taking psyllium should make sure to drink plenty of water. Psyllium has been endorsed by Commission E, Germany’s governing body on herbal remedies, as a solution to constipation (which causes most hemorrhoid issues).
Witch Hazel (Hamamelis virginiana), the active ingredient in Preparation H, is a cooling astringent which may help to relieve an individual’s hemorrhoid pains and itching. A simple compress applied to the afflicted area will help to treat hemorrhoids.
Aloe (Aloe vera) may be used topically or ingested to help treat hemorrhoids. Aloe Vera juice may be used as a laxative, and it has the added benefit of soothing the alimentary canal. Aloe Vera should be purchased from a pharmacy, as the leaf itself is very powerful and could have unwanted effects if prepared improperly.
Butcher’s broom (Ruscus aculeatus) has long been used to treat venous issues. Butcher’s broom contains ruscogenins, which are anti-inflammatory. It may be applied topically or made as a tea.
Finally, a number of essential oils, added to vegetable oil, may be applied to the rectal area to soothe inflammation. Recommended oils include cypress, juniper, lavender, lemon, and rosemary.
- Bratman, S. The Alternative Medicine Ratings Guide: an expert panel rates the best treatments for over 80 conditions, Prima Health A Division of Prima Publishing (1998)
- Brown, L. Alternative Medicine, NTC/Contemporary Publishing (1999)
- Deepak Chopra, M.D. Alternative Medicine: The Definitive Guide, Celestial Arts (2002)
- Duke, J. The Green Pharmacy: Herbal remedies for common diseases and conditions from the world's foremost authority on healing herbs,Rodale Limited (2003)
- Nancy Allison. The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Body-Mind Disciplines, The Rosen Publishing Group (1999)
- Servan-Schreiber, D. The Encyclopedia of New Medicine: Conventional & Alternative Medicine For All Ages, Rodale International Limited (2006)
Posted in HemorrhoidsAsk a Question Or Join a Discussion