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Hemorrhoids

Facts, causes and treatments

Hemorrhoids or haemorrhoids are more commonly known as piles, they are swollen, enlarged, prolapsed and/or inflamed blood vessels occurring inside or outside the anal cavity. They are very common and while some people may not notice them, they cause many people a great deal of discomfort along with rectal bleeding. Some people find haemorrhoids painful when going about ones daily business in activities such as walking and preclude people for sports and exercise.

Internal haemorrhoids may only become apparent due to discomfort and/or bleeding when passing stools although they can also protrude as an external haemorrhoid.

External haemorrhoids are usually seen as protruding lumps or bumps located around the entrance to the rectum. As with internal haemorrhoids they can be painful and or bleed when passing stools.

Their nature is akin to varicose veins and there are many causes. They occur because blood vessels are being constricted and this is symptomatic of a poor diet and lifestyle, insufficient fluids, insufficient dietary fibre and exercise.  Conditions like constipation, straining to poo, childbirth, heavy lifting, chronic illnesses also cause or contribute.

Initial management

external

The first things to do are to:

  1. Don't panic, but see a doctor if they are too painful or you can't look after yourself.
  2. Stop using toilet paper, this is often what starts the bleeding and instead one needs to wash gently but thoroughly.
  3. Increase water consumption, fresh fruits and vegetables to ensure that your diet is rich in fibre so that your stools become soft, that you don’t have to strain during bowel movements.
  4. Examine your lifestyle and get little more exercise.
  5. Kegals - pelvic floor lifts.
  6. Self massage

Just doing these three things is often enough and they can be combined with gentle massage. Massage helps all other physical conditions and if you do a little search on the web will find there are hundreds of testimonials and instructions about how to massage haemorrhoids.

How to self massage

  • Wash around the anus with soapy water and determine whether or not the haemorrhoids are internal or external. If they are external and these are the easiest to feel, gently massage the entire area including inside the anal cavity and then massage pressing the vein/haemorrhoid back in against your body.
  • If they are internal and there is nothing protruding, use a soapy finger to massage around inside the anal opening. If they are internal and protruding, push them back in and massage gently.
  • Typically one would massage the area after passing stools and washing - repeat 2 to 3 times a day. Further advantage can be gained by using natural coconut oil or even haemorrhoid creams from your doctor or pharmacy.
  • If you have a partner or friend to do this massage for you, the process is as above and similar to prostate massage.

If these things do not work for you, talk to your doctor or pharmacist and the last resort is surgery to remove those veins or restrict blood flow. The operation is usually carried out under general anaesthetic, which means you'll be unconscious during the procedure and won't feel any pain while it's carried out.

There are several different surgical procedures including haemorrhoidal artery ligation and haemorrhoidectomy or stapled haemorrhoidopexy. You may experience pain, faecal incontinence and have other issues for  a few weeks after the procedure and you will have to take time out from regular daily activities for recovery and women especially will likely avoid sex for many weeks after surgery.

Adopting or continuing a high-fibre diet and drinking plenty of water is the best way to reduce the risk of getting hemorrhoids in the first place.

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