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What are Hemorrhoids 

internal and external hemorrhoidsHemorrhoids are quite common and by age 50, it's estimated that half of adults have experienced them at one time or another. Also known as 'piles', hemorrhoids are veins in your anus and lower rectum that have become swollen and inflamed. An embarrassing subject for many people, hemorrhoids are common and something you should not be afraid to deal with or talk to your doctor about!

You may have internal or external hemorrhoids or both. Those located internally are often not felt if they are higher up and usually do not cause discomfort, though they can leave marks of blood on your stool. External hemorrhoids are often painful and itchy since there are many nerve receptors in that area. These too can break open and bleed, causing bright red blood to leak into the toilet bowl.

Understanding hemorrhoids is the first step to clearing them up and keeping them under control. It's also important to note that while hemorrhoids themselves may not pose serious health risks, you may have other issues that your doctor should be aware of, so be sure to raise the subject with your local doctor. 

Signs and Symptoms of Hemorrhoids

There are many signs you may have hemorrhoids including:
  • Painless bleeding during bowel movements
  • Bright red blood on toilet paper and/or in toilet bowl during bowel movements
  • Blood on stool
  • Itching in anal area (may be accompanied by pain and discomfort)
  • Lump near anus (may be painful or not)
  • Leakage of feces
  • Pain while sitting down
Also, depending on the type of hemorrhoid you may experience the following:

Internal Hemorrhoids
  • Usually these lie inside the rectum so you won't feel them, however, straining during a bowel movement can force the hemorrhoid out and it can become 'prolapsed', causing a great deal of pain and discomfort. 

External Hemorrhoids
  • These type of hemorrhoid are under the skin around your anus. Wiping too harshly can cause them to bleed and itch
  • Blood can also 'pool' into a hemorrhoid causing it to be 'thrombosed' which is very painful. Your doctor may prescribe a nitro-glycerin type of cream for these types of hemorrhoids as it helps move the blood along

Complications of Hemorrhoids


If you are losing too much blood you may have  a condition known as anemia which is low red blood cell count. You require red blood cells to carry oxygen throughout your body to cells and having a low count will make you fatigued and weak. You can take Vitamin B12 to increase red blood cell production however, if you are losing lots of blood and chronically bleeding every time you have a bowel movement, consult your doctor.

Strangulated hemorrhoid

Blood supply to a hemorrhoid can get cut off and will result in strangulation. This not only causes extreme pain but also may result in tissue death (gangrene.) 

Seeing blood after passing a bowel movement can be alarming and often it may only be hemorrhoids that have become irritated, however, do not ignore signs that may require immediate assistance. Other diseases like cancer and upper digestive disorders can result in bleeding as well.

If your hemorrhoids don't improve after trying some home remedies, or if they are accompanied by any of the following, see your doctor for consult:
  • Change of bowel habits and frequency
  • Black,tarry,maroon stools
  • Blood clots
  • Large amounts of rectal bleeding
  • Lightheadedness, dizziness or fainting

Natural Ways to Treat Hemorrhoids

There are a few ways to find relief for your hemorrhoids and to keep them under control. 
  • Sitz baths - soaking anal area in small bath for 10-15 min two to three times a day. Fits over a toilet seat, you can often find these at most drug stores. Soak in Epsom salts.
  • Wipe area with moist toilet paper or wipes (not dry) and be gentle
  • Be sure to cleanse area well (can be difficult depending on severity of hemorrhoids)
  • Try to minimize number of times you have bowel movements to allow area to heal
  • Avoid sitting for longer than 5 minutes (no reading on the toilet!) to avoid straining
  • Apply cold compresses to anal area to reduce swelling
  • Use over the counter creams or suppositories to shrink hemorrhoids
  • Use natural creams like shea butter to help repair any fissures (tears)
  • Avoid sitting for long periods of time and use a doughnut seat if possible
  • Increase fibre in your diet and drink more fluids to keep stools soft
  • Exercise often. Not only will this help with any extra weight that may be one contributing factor but it helps keep the body regular and the blood flowing properly

Other Hemorrhoid Treatments

There are other treatments available for your hemorrhoids but these are last resort options. Some can be done at your doctors office while others require you to enter into a hospital for outpatient treatment and undergo preparation. They include:

Thrombosed Hemmorhoid - If your hemorrhoid has become thrombosed your doctor can make an incision and remove the clot. However, many hemorrhoid sufferers have stated this to be a painful procedure which did not solve the problem and only worsened it.

Rubber Band Ligation - A minimally invasive procedure, this can be done in your doctors office. Your doctor can place tiny rubber bands around the hemorrhoid to cut off the circulation and it will fall off within a week. The procedure may be uncomfortable for the first few days and cause bleeding but it's rarely severe.

Injection (sclerotherapy) - Your doctor will inject a solution into the hemorrhoid tissue to shrink it. This injection causes no pain but it's not as effective as ligation.

Coagulation (infrared, laser or bipolar) - Causes small and bleeding internal hemorrhoids to harden and shrivel. Few side effects but higher rate of recurrence than ligation.

Hemorrhoid Removal - If other techniques have not worked, or if the hemorrhoids are very large, you may require a surgical procedure. Known as a hemorrhoidectomy, a surgeon removes excessive tissue causing the bleeding. Done with local anesthetic, it is a good technique for getting rid of hemorrhoids but can include complications such as bladder control. Most patients experience pain after the procedure and will require pain medications for relief.

Stapling - Using stales to block blood flow to hemorrhoids, stapling still has a greater risk of recurrence and also chance of rectal prolapse (where part of rectum protrudes from anus.)

The best way to deal with hemorrhoids is to not get them, however, if you do get them, work on treating them quickly and naturally before they get out of hand. Don't be embarrassed to bring up the subject with your doctor as hemorrhoids are quite common and can be easier to deal with when first discovered!

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