Hemorrhoids are structures within the anal canal that help with stool control. They basically aid in smooth passage of stool. This is made possible by their composition; they are composed of arterio-venous channels with connective tissues. Hemorrhoids are very necessary for continence and the protection of anal sphincter muscles during passage of stool. The presence of hemorrhoids in the anal canal is therefore normal and beneficial. It is only when hemorrhoids experience abnormal changes that they start causing problems. Problematic pathological) hemorrhoids are usually swollen or inflamed.
Types of Hemorrhoids
Pathological hemorrhoids are classified into two categories depending on their position within the anal canal.
External pathological hemorrhoids – External pathological hemorrhoids occur at the end of the anal canal. They are usually swollen, irritative and can be very painful. This is mainly because they are usually varicosities of the veins that drain the inferior rectal arteries. Left untreated, external pathological hemorrhoids can become thrombosed.
Internal pathological hemorrhoids – Unlike external pathological hemorrhoids, internal pathological hemorrhoids occur within the rectum. Because they are varicosities of veins that drain an area without pain receptors, internal pathological hemorrhoids do not cause any pain. They can however bleed if irritated. Left untreated, internal pathological hemorrhoids can develop into severe forms of hemorrhoids-prolapsed and strangulated hemorrhoids, which can be pushed outside the anus.
Causes of Hemorrhoids
A number of factors are associated with the change from healthy hemorrhoids to pathological hemorrhoids as given
- Bowel problems such as constipation/diarrhea
- Low-fiber diet
- Sitting for long periods
Such factors as pregnancy and obesity cause pathological hemorrhoids because of their effect of increasing rectal vein pressure, which causes hemorrhoid vessels to enlarge.
Symptoms of Hemorrhoids
Generally, pathological hemorrhoids present such symptoms as
- Rectal pain (external hemorrhoids)
- Rectal bleeding
- Stool with blood
- Lump around the anus
In most cases, some of the symptoms disappear after a few days. It is important to point out that these very symptoms are usually presented by other anorectal problems including fissures, colorectal cancer, rectal varices and fistulae. Correct diagnosis is there very necessary for appropriate treatment.
Diagnosis of Hemorrhoids
Pathological hemorrhoids can be diagnosed in several ways. Visual examination of the anus and the surrounding area with the use of anoscopy or proctoscopy may reveal external hemorrhoids. In most cases however, a rectal exam through endoscopy is usually performed to detect rectal polyps, tumors and enlarged prostate.
Treatment of Hemorrhoids
Early detection or diagnosis of pathological hemorrhoids does inform treatment method to be employed. A simple treatment usually involves change of diet where a diet rich in fiber is highly recommended. Increased fluid intake is also recommended to maintain proper hydration. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications are usually prescribed to minimize pain and inflammation. In extreme cases, surgery is usually undertaken. Pathological hemorrhoid surgery treatment techniques include hemorrhoidectomy amongst other techniques.
Like with other health conditions, pathological hemorrhoids are preventable. Keeping the stool soft so that it passes easily is the best prevention method. This is because doing so minimizes the pressure and straining while passing stool. This is attainable by eating high fiber diet and adequate fluid intake. Performing exercises has also been found to be an effective way of preventing pathological hemorrhoids.