Hemorrhoids, or piles disease, are swollen veins located in the anus and rectum. Hemorrhoids affect people of all ages, and are one of the most common causes of rectal bleeding. Approximately half of all people older than fifty have experienced hemorrhoid symptoms.
External hemorrhoids and internal hemorrhoids describe the location of piles in the rectum. Internal hemorrhoids, as the name implies, are located inside the anus. External hemorrhoids develop in the skin surrounding the anal opening. Both internal and external hemorrhoids can protrude outwards. The causes of hemorrhoids include constipation and excessive straining during bowel movements. Persistent diarrhea and loose stool movements are also causes of hemorrhoids, and some people inherit a family tendency to develop piles.
Women are more susceptible to hemorrhoids during pregnancy, as pressure from the growing uterus restricts blood flow in the pelvic area. Lifestyle factors can also contribute to hemorrhoid development. Other causes of hemorrhoids include sitting or standing for long periods of time, heavy lifting and obesity.
Some cases of piles have been associated with anal intercourse.
Rectal bleeding, one of the most common hemorrhoid symptoms, is also one of the most alarming. Piles usually bleed after a bowel movement, and blood may be detected in the toilet or on toilet tissue.
If no hemorrhoid symptoms are present, or if symptoms are mild, piles often resolve by themselves and disappear in a few weeks. During this time stool softeners and bulking agents such as psyllium can relieve constipation, prevent excessive straining and facilitate healing of the hemorrhoid. Avoiding heavy exercise or lifting during the healing process is recommended.
Swelling and rectal itching can be alleviated with sitz baths soaking the anal region in warm water or by applying compresses to the anus. Using a solution of magnesium sulfate is recommended for both sitz baths and compresses. Use half a cup magnesium sulfate per sitz bath of water.
Severe rectal pain caused by piles can be relieved with oral painkillers, including narcotics, if rectal pain is intense. Heavy rectal bleeding can be stopped, at least temporarily, by an injection of five percent phenol directly into the affected vein.
If piles are small enough, infrared photocoagulation is used for piles treatment to cut off the hemorrhoid's blood supply. Infrared photocoagulation is also used for hemorrhoids that are too painful to be treated with rubber band ligation. The actual surgical removal of hemorrhoids, called hemorrhoidectomy, is not commonly performed. Surgical removal of piles is usually undertaken only if thromosed hemorrhoids are causing excessive rectal bleeding.