What are hemorrhoids?
Hemorrhoids are enlarged, bulging blood veins in and about the rectum. There are two types of Hemorrhoids: external and internal, which refer to their location.
External (outside) hemorrhoids develop near the anus. These are usually painless. However, if a blood clot develops in an external hemorrhoid, it becomes a painful, hard lump. The external hemorrhoid may bleed if it ruptures.
Internal (inside) hemorrhoids develop within the rectum. Painless bleeding and protrusion during bowel movements are the most common symptoms. However, an internal hemorrhoid can cause severe pain if they protrude from the anal opening and cannot be pushed back inside
What are the symptoms?
If you notice any of the following, you could have hemorrhoids:
• Bleeding during bowel movements
• Protrusion during bowel movements
• Itching in the anal area
• Sensitive lump(s)
How are hemorrhoids treated?
Mild symptoms can be relieved frequently by increasing the amount of fiber (e.g., fruits, vegetables, breads and cereals) and fluids in the diet. Eliminating excessive straining reduces the pressure on hemorrhoids and helps prevent them from protruding. A sitz bath - sitting in plain warm water for about 10 minutes - can also provide some relief.
Contrary to popular belief, surgery for hemorrhoids is not very pain full. In many cases hemorrhoids can be ligated using rubber bands or sutures. A small rubber band is placed over the hemorrhoid, cutting off its blood supply. The hemorrhoid shrinks and falls off in a few days. This procedure sometimes produces mild discomfort.
For large hemorrhoids a “Stapling” technique is used. This is a relatively new and painless technique. Very large and permanently prolapsed hemorrhoids are treated with excision. This procedure is performed in the hospital under anesthesia and when performed expertly by a colon & rectal surgeon should not result in excessive pain.
Do hemorrhoids lead to cancer?
No. There is no relationship between hemorrhoids and cancer. However, the symptoms of hemorrhoids, particularly bleeding, are similar to those of colorectal cancer. It is therefore very important not to ignore any of these symptoms. I have seen many patients who assumed that their bleeding was from “hemorrhoids and ignored their symptoms for years, only to realize too late that the bleeding was actually coming from cancer! Do not rely on over-the-counter medications or other self-treatments. See a colorectal surgeon first so your symptoms can be properly evaluated and effective treatment can be provided.