Haemorrhoids are swollen blood vessels in the bottom or rectum. If these veins swell it can cause the vein walls to become stretched and thin. This section of the wall can then get irritated when you have a bowel movement.
Internal haemorrhoids are up inside the rectum and you can’t see or feel them. Because there are not many pain sensors in the rectum they don’t usually hurt. The only sign that they are there may be bleeding.
Occasionally an internal haemorrhoid may “prolapse,” or protrude outside the anal sphincter. When this happens, you may be able to see or feel moist, pink pads of skin that are pinker than the surrounding area. Prolapsed haemorrhoids may hurt because, unlike the rectum, the anus has many pain-sensing nerves. They usually go back into the rectum on their own. If they don’t, they can often be gently pushed back into place.
External haemorrhoids are found within the anus and are usually painful.
Blood clots sometimes form within prolapsed external haemorrhoids, causing a very painful condition called a thrombosis. If this happens, the haemorrhoid can turn purple or blue, and possibly bleed. While thrombosis can be very painful it is not usually serious and usually disappears within a couple of weeks. The specialist can remove it if the pain is unbearable.
What Causes Haemorrhoids?
The exact cause is unknown and some people seem more susceptible to getting them than others. It may be because of thin veins, varicose veins or it may be hereditary.
Abdominal pressure can also cause them. This pressure may be caused by;
- Standing or sitting for a long time
- Straining during bowel movements
Please remember that while haemorrhoids are the main cause of anal bleeding, bleeding can be a symptom of a more serious problem. It is therefore essential that you get checked by a Doctor if you experience any bleeding.
How are Haemorrhoids Treated?
- Banding – Prolapsed haemorrhoids can be effectively removed using rubber-band ligation. A special tool secures a tiny rubber band around the haemorrhoid, shutting off its blood supply. Within a week, the haemorrhoid shrivels and falls off. This is the preferred treatment at the MacMurray Centre.
- Injection – An internal haemorrhoid can be injected with a solution which creates a scar and closes it off
- Coagulation or cauterisation – Using either an electric probe, a laser beam, or an infrared light, a tiny burn painlessly seals the end of the haemorrhoid, causing it to close off and shrink.
- Surgery – For large internal haemorrhoids or extremely uncomfortable external haemorrhoids
- Eat more fibre – High fibre diets help to keep bowel movements regular and make the stool softer, therefore decreasing the strain placed on the anus. Fibre can be found in vegetables, whole grains, nuts, seeds, beans and legumes or taken as a supplement.
- Drink more water – again, this helps to keep the stools soft and easy to pass
- Warm baths after bowel movements
- Creams – to relieve symptoms