Piles, also known as hemorrhoids or haemorrhoids, are a common and very uncomfortable health issue. Piles can cause a range of unpleasant symptoms such as bleeding, itching, swelling, and pain in the anal area. While uncomfortable, it’s important to be aware of the causes, symptoms, and treatments associated with piles so that you can take the necessary steps to manage them.
In this blog post, we’ll learn about the causes, symptoms, diagnosis, prevention, risk factors, and treatments of piles.
What are piles (hemorrhoids)?
Piles, also known as hemorrhoids, are swollen and inflamed veins in the rectum and anus. They can be internal or external, depending on where they are located. Internal piles occur within the rectum, whereas external piles are located near the anal opening.
Piles can be caused by increased pressure in the lower rectum due to straining during bowel movements, chronic constipation or diarrhea, and sitting for long periods of time on the toilet.
Symptoms of piles may include itching and irritation around the anus, bright red bleeding during bowel movements, swelling around the anus, and a feeling of fullness in the rectum. In some cases, piles may cause pain or discomfort.
What are the symptoms associated with piles?
Common symptoms of piles can include itching, burning, pain, inflammation, and bleeding during and after bowel movements. Piles can occur inside the anus (internal piles) or outside the anus (external piles).
Internal piles may be present without causing any discomfort or symptoms, but they may still cause bleeding. External piles can cause pain and swelling in the area. Other symptoms of piles can include mucus discharge from the anus and a feeling of incomplete bowel movements. The severity of these symptoms can vary depending on how large the piles are.
If you experience any of these symptoms it is important to speak to your doctor for diagnosis and treatment. It is important to get a proper diagnosis as other medical conditions can cause similar symptoms.
What causes hemorrhoids?
Piles are swollen veins in the lower part of the rectum or anus and can have several different causes. The main cause is increased pressure in the veins, which is often caused by straining during bowel movements, either due to constipation or due to straining to pass a hard stool.
Other common causes include pregnancy, aging, a sedentary lifestyle, and chronic diarrhea or constipation.
It is also possible to develop piles due to excessive anal itching, anal sex, sitting for long periods of time, lifting heavy objects, or even heredity. A combination of these factors can increase your risk of developing piles.
In some cases, external piles may be caused by an infection such as a sexually transmitted disease, or an underlying medical condition such as Crohn’s disease. If you have any symptoms of an infection, it is important to seek medical attention right away.
How to diagnose hemorrhoids?
When it comes to diagnosing piles, there are two main methods of diagnosis used. The first is an external examination, which involves a doctor examining the area around the anus. During this examination, the doctor will look for swollen veins, lumps, or skin changes.
The second method of diagnosis is an internal examination, which involves the doctor inserting a gloved finger into the rectum to feel for any abnormalities. This type of exam allows the doctor to check the size and shape of any piles present and determine whether any other conditions such as fissures, fistulas, or abscesses are present.
If piles are suspected, your doctor may also order imaging tests such as endoscopic ultrasound or MRI to get a better view of the inside of the rectum. This can help confirm whether piles are present and if so, what size and shape they are.
It’s important to note that these methods of diagnosis are not always necessary. Piles often resolve on their own and in many cases, your doctor may be able to make a diagnosis simply by talking to you about your symptoms and examining the area around your anus.
How to prevent piles?
The best way to prevent piles is to keep your stool soft, which can help reduce straining and limit discomfort. Some steps that may help include:
- Increasing your fiber intake by eating more fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.
- Staying hydrated by drinking plenty of water and other fluids.
- Exercising regularly.
- Going to the bathroom when you have the urge rather than waiting.
- Avoiding sitting for long periods of time.
- Taking laxatives or fiber supplements if needed.
- Using moist toilet paper after bowel movements.
If you already have piles, it’s important to take steps to reduce your risk of complications. These steps include:
- Eating a diet high in fiber.
- Drinking plenty of water and other fluids.
- Exercising regularly.
- Practicing good hygiene (e.g., wiping from front to back).
- Avoiding lifting heavy objects.
- Keeping the anal area clean and dry.
- Avoiding constipation or straining during bowel movements.
What are the risk factors associated with piles?
There are certain factors that can increase your risk of developing piles (hemorrhoids). These include:
- Age: People over the age of 50 have an increased risk of developing piles due to the weakening of their rectal muscles.
- Genetics: If a family member has had piles, there is a higher likelihood that you will develop them too.
- Obesity: Overweight people are more likely to suffer from piles as the extra weight puts strain on their rectal veins.
- Chronic constipation or diarrhea: Having trouble passing stools regularly can also increase your chances of getting piles.
- Straining when passing stool: This can be due to a variety of reasons such as constipation, pregnancy, and heavy lifting.
- Anal intercourse: This can put pressure on the veins in your anus and cause them to swell up.
- Sitting for long periods: Sitting for extended periods of time, especially without proper posture, can lead to the development of piles.
- Low-fiber diet: Eating a diet low in fiber can make it difficult to pass stools, leading to straining.
- Smoking: Smoking can decrease blood flow to the anal area, making it more difficult for your body to repair any damage that has occurred.
- Pregnancy: The added pressure on the rectal veins during pregnancy can lead to the development of hemorrhoids.
What are the best treatments for hemorrhoids (piles)?
Treatment of piles (hemorrhoids) will depend on the severity and type of the condition. In most cases, simple home remedies such as warm baths, increasing fiber intake, and topical treatments are enough to relieve symptoms. However, if your condition is severe or doesn’t improve with simple remedies, you may need to consult a doctor.
Non-surgical treatment options include:
- Topical creams and ointments: These can be used to reduce inflammation and itching. Many over-the-counter topical treatments are available, as well as prescription medications.
- Laxatives: These can help soften stools and make them easier to pass. However, be sure to talk to your doctor before using any laxatives to avoid potential side effects.
- Rubber band ligation: This procedure involves using a rubber band to cut off circulation to hemorrhoids. This is usually done for larger hemorrhoids and can help reduce swelling.
Surgical options for more severe cases may include:
- Hemorrhoidectomy: This procedure involves surgically removing the hemorrhoids. This is typically used for large or painful external hemorrhoids that do not respond to other treatments.
- Stapled hemorrhoidectomy: Also known as a polypectomy, this procedure uses a special stapling device to remove hemorrhoids. This procedure is usually used for prolapsed internal hemorrhoids.
If you think you may have piles (hemorrhoids), it is important to consult your doctor to determine the best course of treatment for your specific case.
Home remedies for hemorrhoids:
While it is important to visit your doctor for proper diagnosis and treatment, there are a number of home remedies you can use to help soothe the pain and reduce discomfort associated with hemorrhoids. Some of these remedies include:
- Witch hazel: This is one of the most popular home remedies for hemorrhoids. It works by helping to reduce inflammation and soothe the pain. Witch hazel can be applied directly to the affected area or taken internally as a supplement.
- Apple cider vinegar: This natural remedy helps reduce swelling and irritation, while also providing an antiseptic effect. You can apply apple cider vinegar topically or take it internally as a supplement.
- Coconut oil: Coconut oil can help reduce inflammation and provide lubrication to help make bowel movements easier. Apply coconut oil directly to the affected area a few times daily for best results.
- Aloe vera gel: Aloe vera gel has anti-inflammatory properties that can help reduce swelling, redness, and itching associated with hemorrhoids. You can apply aloe vera gel directly to the affected area a few times daily.
- Epsom salt baths: Taking a warm bath with Epsom salt helps to reduce inflammation, provide soothing relief, and cleanse the area. Be sure to keep your baths short (10 minutes or less) and use warm, not hot, water.
By implementing these home remedies, you may be able to find relief from hemorrhoid symptoms. However, it is important to note that some of these remedies may not work for everyone and you should always speak to your doctor before trying any new treatments.
Piles, or hemorrhoids, can be an uncomfortable and embarrassing condition to deal with. However, by understanding the causes, symptoms, prevention, risk factors, and treatments, it is possible to effectively manage the condition and reduce the likelihood of experiencing long-term complications.
Home remedies such as increasing fiber intake, taking sitz baths, and avoiding activities that worsen symptoms can be helpful in easing symptoms. Additionally, talking to your doctor about potential treatments, such as surgery or medications, may also be beneficial in managing this condition.