Haemorrhoids are a common problem for many around the world every year. They flare up quickly and can cause a great deal of discomfort, but they’re not life-threatening and normally clear up of their own accord. The symptoms they produce can be alarming, however.
So with haemorrhoid sufferers constantly searching for answers online to put their minds at ease, let’s take a look at some of the most frequently-asked questions concerning them.
1. What exactly are haemorrhoids?
Haemorrhoids occur when veins in the rectum or anus swell under pressure and become inflamed. They are very itchy and can cause a great deal of discomfort for those suffering from them. In certain cases they can also bleed, prolapse or become thrombosed. They can appear inside and outside the body.
2. How many different kinds of haemorrhoids are there?
There are several varieties of haemorrhoid, but all occur around the rectum or anal regions. Internal haemorrhoids appear inside the anus and are not visible to an examiner. They may, however, develop further to become external haemorrhoids that are visible beneath the skin of the anus. External haemorrhoids can prolapse and hang down from the anus visibly, creating a new problem for sufferers. Haemorrhoids can also thrombose (clot) and burst if they become too full of blood. You can suffer from both internal and external haemorrhoids simultaneously.
3. How common are haemorrhoids?
Very common indeed. It’s likely that at least one in twenty people will suffer from haemorrhoids are some point in their lives, and that chance only increases as people get older (roughly fifty per cent of adults aged over fifty years old are likely to get haemorrhoids). However, in spite of how common they are, haemorrhoids are not life-threatening and are not considered a ‘serious’ issue by most medical professionals, unless they fail to heal after treatment.
4. Does anything increase your chances of getting haemorrhoids?
There are several things that can increase your chance of getting haemorrhoids, although anyone can contract them at any point, no matter what preventative measures they put in place. If you’re overweight or spend significant amounts of time sitting (whether that’s at work or at home), you’ll put added pressure on your anal region and increase the chance of getting haemorrhoids. Older people and pregnant women also have an increased chance of haemorrhoids occurring in their rectum or anus, and those suffering from diarrhoea and constipation are also more likely to get them as more strain is placed on their rectal veins.
5. Can you avoid getting haemorrhoids?
While anyone can get haemorrhoids are any time, there are a few things you can do to reduce your chances of suffering from them. Start by avoiding sitting for too long (take a quick walk at work) and get regular exercise. Consume as much high-fibre food as you can, especially fresh fruit and vegetables and anything made from whole grains. You should also stay hydrated at all times by drinking plenty of water. If you do become constipated, you can soften your stool further with softeners or laxatives, though these should only be used as a temporary measure.
6. What symptoms accompany haemorrhoids?
People with haemorrhoids will normally experience excessive itching around the anal region, and may also feel hard lumps under the skin. Bowel movements may become painful and blood may appear in the stool. Sufferers will experience a lot of discomfort when sitting or cleaning their anus. If blood appears in your stool, you should always consult your doctor immediately in case it’s a symptom of something more serious than haemorrhoids.
7. What can I buy from the pharmacy to treat haemorrhoids?
There are a number of effective products available at your local pharmacy to help tackle a haemorrhoid problem. You can purchase ointments, sprays, creams and other suppositories to help relieve your haemorrhoid symptoms, as long as they are unscented. Products for haemorrhoid relief will likely contain anaesthetics or ingredients that help reduce swelling.
8. Are there any home remedies for haemorrhoids?
Yes, there are a few things you can try which can help relieve your haemorrhoid pain at home. Try using a warm compress with a towel soaked in hot water to reduce itchiness and pain around your anus; you can also use a cold compress (an ice pack wrapped in a towel) to tackle swelling, and alternating between both can increase the effectiveness overall. You can also use a Sitz bath to soak the region. Avoid wiping your anus with normal toilet paper while suffering from haemorrhoids – it’s best to use a moist paper toilet or wipe to gently clean the area before patting it dry (don’t rub it). Again, change your diet to help avoid constipation, which would only aggravate your symptoms further.
9. If I see the doctor, what procedures might he or she recommend?
In the event that home remedies and pharmacy-bought products don’t do the trick, it’s time to speak to your doctor. A variety of procedures are available to tackle haemorrhoids: your doctor may suggest a rubber band ligation, clot removal, sclerotherapy or coagulation, all of which can be completed under local anaesthetic in the outpatient surgery or doctor’s office.
The most common method for shrinking haemorrhoids is rubber band ligation, which works successfully for 75% of patients, although it is shown to have a recurrence rate of between 30% and 50%. It simply involves cutting off the blood supply to a haemorrhoid using a rubber band – after a few days pass, the haemorrhoid dies and drops off on its own. It can be quite painful and carries its own risks.
A sclerotherapy injection involves your doctor injecting a chemical into the haemorrhoid to shrink it down, after which time it will again just drop off by itself. Coagulation can also be used to stop blood flow to haemorrhoids using laser techniques or stapling.
The latest treatment for Haemorrhoids, using radio frequency ablation technology, is a walk in walk out option, carried out generally under local anaesthetic (with or without sedation) and it is done within a few minutes. Importantly, one can generally resume their daily activities almost straight away! It is known as The Rafaelo procedure. This is rapidly becoming the most sought after procedure in the UK, available from Glasgow down to Truro within 40+ private hospitals and at some NHS hospitals.
In the most extreme cases, a haemorrhoidectomy may be required to physically cut out someone of haemorrhoids. It is said to be effective up to 90% of the time, but is normally only used for larger haemorrhoids that prove problematic. It is generally carried out under general anaesthetic and is usually very painful for several weeks post-op, requiring a similar amount of time of work.