What are hemorrhoids?

Hemorrhoids (also known as “piles”) are swollen blood vessels (veins) near the back passage.

What are the symptoms of hemorrhoids?

Hemorrhoids can cause itching and pain around the back passage. Sometimes they bleed during a bowel movement typically with bright red blood on toilet paper on wiping or splashed on the pan.

In some cases, you can see or feel hemorrhoids around the outside of the back passage. In other cases, you cannot see them because they are hidden inside the back passage.

Other symptoms of hemorrhoids include wetness around the back passage, minor leakage of faeces, mucus discharge and a sense of fullness around the back passage. Occasionally they can become acutely painful and swollen if they contain blood clot (thrombosed).

Should I see a doctor?

You should see a doctor or other healthcare professional if you have any bleeding from the back passage or if your bowel movements look like tar. Bleeding from the back passage could be caused by something other than hemorrhoids, so you should have it checked out.

If you do have hemorrhoids, your doctor can then suggest appropriate treatments. But there some steps you can try on you your own first.

What can I do to avoid getting hemorrhoids?

The most important thing you can do to avoid getting hemorrhoids is to avoid getting constipated. You should have a bowel movement at least a few times a week. Avoid straining when you have a bowel movement.
Being constipated and having hard stools can make hemorrhoids worse. Here are some steps you can take to avoid getting constipated or having hard stools:

  • Eat lots of fruits and vegetables. They have fibre, which helps to increase bowel movements.
  • If necessary supplement your fibre intake with fibre powders. You should aim to consume 20 to 35 grams of fibre a day.
  • Take medicines called stool softeners such as docusate sodium (Dulcolax) or bulk forming laxatives. Bulk forming laxatives such as ispaghula (fybogel) may be taken one sachet a day. These medicines increase the number of bowel movements you have. They are safe to take and they can prevent problems later.

What can I do to reduce my hemorrhoid symptoms?

Sitz bath – some people feel better if they soak their buttocks in 2 or 3 inches of warm water. You can do this up to 2 to 3 times a day for 10 to 15 minutes. Do not add soap, bubble bath, or anything to the water as they act as irritants and may make matters worse.

There are also remedies or medicines that you can get without a prescription. They are usually creams or ointments that you rub on your anus to relieve pain, itching, and swelling. Some hemorrhoid medicines come in a capsule (called a suppository) that you put inside your back passage. Others come in a cream that comes in a bottle with a nozzle that you can insert inside your back passage. It is fine to use these medicines as long as you need them, however, avoid using medicines that contain hydrocortisone (a steroid medicine) for more than a week, unless your healthcare provider approves.

What if the above self-care methods do not work?

If you still have hemorrhoid symptoms after trying the steps listed above, you might need treatments to destroy or remove the hemorrhoids.

One popular treatment is called “rubber band ligation.” For this treatment, the doctor ties tiny rubber bands around the hemorrhoids. A few days later the hemorrhoids shrink and fall off. The doctor can also inject chemicals to destroy hemorrhoids. But if none of these options works, there is always surgery to remove the hemorrhoids.

Please ensure you consult a healthcare professional before making decisions about your health.