Let’s face it; hemorrhoids aren’t a subject most people want to discuss. Yet, if you’re over 50 or pregnant, there’s a strong chance you’ve had one. Like millions of Americans, you probably applied an ointment or a witch hazel pad and the issue was resolved in a few days.
However, every now and then, a hemorrhoid appears where an over-the-counter approach doesn’t work, and another solution is required. If left untreated, these hemorrhoids can be extremely painful.
So what exactly are hemorrhoids?
Essentially, a hemorrhoid is a pooling of blood in the anal or rectal veins that causes itching, swelling (and, in worse cases) pain. Hemorrhoids can be external (visible in the skin outside the rectum) or internal (inside the rectum).
A hemorrhoid occurs because of a non-functioning vein valve. When the valve malfunctions, it prevents blood from being pumped upwards and recirculating via the heart. Naturally, gravity takes hold and sends the blood back from where it came. This causes the vein (in this case, the anal vein) to collect blood. As the blood pools, it can cause the surrounding skin tissues to swell, and from that, hemorrhoids appear.
What causes them to flare up?
Hemorrhoid problems can stem from a variety of situations, including:
- A lack of fiber (constipation)
- Genetics, and even,
- Sitting for too long on the toilet.
How bad can hemorrhoids get?
Hemorrhoids range from rarely bothersome to extremely painful and are graded into four categories. They are:
Grade #1 – A Hemorrhoid may be noticeable when felt but carries no discomfort – There may also be some rectal bleeding.
Grade #2 - Slightly prolapsed – When a hemorrhoid becomes more prominent, it can bulge out from the anal opening, causing occasional pain and discomfort.
Grade #3 – Further prolapsing or protrusion causing greater discomfort - The hemorrhoid becomes larger, but can be manually pushed back inside.
Grade #4 – Hemorrhoidal protrusion that remains stuck outside the anal area - In most cases, grade four hemorrhoids are extremely painful.
Typically, hemorrhoids at the lower end of the scale can be treated quickly and easily using ointments and creams. However, when the problem persists for several weeks or more or worsens, it’s time to see a doctor.
What to expect when visiting a practitioner?
Hemorrhoids are diagnosed off the back of your symptoms, plus a physical examination. If the problem appears to be internalized, your GP may conduct a digital investigation using a small scope and/or a gloved finger.
Once diagnosed, a doctor may prescribe medications to reduce swelling in and around the anal area. Other treatment options include infrared light, coagulation therapy, or, in the case of internal hemorrhoids, rubber band ligation.
Can hemorrhoids worsen?
In a word, Yes!
When a hemorrhoid suffers complications, it can be highly uncomfortable for the recipient, causing pressure, stinging, burning and/or sharp stabbing pain when seated. Some patients feel excruciating pain during bowel movements.
- Thrombosed hemorrhoids – When the hemorrhoid itself suffers a blood clot
- A prolapse – When an internal hemorrhoid becomes so large it pushes through the rectum
- An irritated hemorrhoid that results in bleeding - This, in turn, can lead to anemia.
- Infected hemorrhoids – When an external hemorrhoid (or internal hemorrhoid that has become external) develops a sore.
In such cases, the doctor might suggest surgical removal of the hemorrhoid - a hemorrhoidectomy.
While, in most cases, surgery goes without a hitch, patients may also be at risk of further bleeding, temporary incontinence and infection. In addition, patients should expect a relatively long recovery period and some degree of post-operative pain.
Are there any other solutions for problem hemorrhoids?
A ground-breaking, non-surgical treatment known as Hemorrhoid Artery Embolization (HAE) is also available for more extensive, problematic hemorrhoids.
Essentially, it works by shrinking and destroying the hemorrhoidal tissue.
During the treatment, tiny harmless microspheres are passed into the rectal artery via a small catheter. As they reach the hemorrhoidal area, the microspheres block the blood flow to the hemorrhoid, destroying the tissue and causing the hemorrhoid to shrink.
Treatment is carried out in an outpatient setting in as little as 45 minutes resulting in little or no downtime.
Reports suggest that 95% of all patients undertaking HAE therapy experience an improved quality of life, making it a speedy but effective procedure for hemorrhoids.
Don’t let hemorrhoids get you down
If your hemorrhoids are making your life a misery, take action and talk to MINT!
Here, at the Midwest Institute of Non-Surgical Therapy, Dr Akinwande is a board-certified vascular and endovascular specialist who regularly helps patients using Hemorrhoid Artery Embolization. This proven, ground-breaking technique eradicates troublesome hemorrhoids without the need for surgery.
Don’t let hemorrhoidal discomfort ruin your routine. Take back control now and talk to Dr A today.
Image courtesy of Freepik