Areas of widened veins in the rectum that sometimes become inflamed are called haemorrhoids or piles. A person may have internal haemorrhoids, located in the lower rectum, external haemorrhoids, which form under the skin around the anus, or both. Haemorrhoids may cause itching and bleeding with defection that coats the stool, streaks toilet tissue or drips into the toilet. Sometimes internal haemorrhoids will protrude or prolapsed, through the anus. This may allow leakage of the rectal contents.
Haemorrhoids usually only cause minor discomfort unless a blood clot forms inside one of them. This is called a thrombosed haemorrhoid and can cause severe pain, swelling and inflammation.
Causes of haemorrhoids
Whenever pressure on the veins of the rectum is increased, haemorrhoids may flare up and cause symptoms.
Chronic constipation contributes to problems with haemorrhoidsbecause small, hard stools are much more difficult to pass. Straining repeatedly to have a bowel movement puts pressure on haemorrhoids, leading to irritation. Persistent diarrhoea can also inflame existing haemorrhoids and lead to discomfort and bleeding, because of the repeated passing of loose stools. Overzealous wiping or cleaning of the anal area is another source of irritation.
Pressure from prolonged sitting, pregnancy and anal intercourse is associated with haemorrhoids symptoms, as is advancing age, when the tissue that normally holds the veiny structures in place get thinner and grow more fragile. Any condition that places additional pressure on the bodyâ€™s venous system can also result in haemorrhoids.
Because hard stools are the primary cause of haemorrhoids, prevention depends on combating constipation. Straining or pushing hard during a bowel movement increases pressure on rectal veins and irritates haemorrhoids. Ways of keeping stools soft and easy to pass are eating a diet rich in high fibre foods and drinking more hydrating fluids. When an urge to go to have a bowel movement comes on it is important to go to the toilet right away. Suppressing the urge can cause stools to become dry and hard.
It is also important to exercise regularly to keep your bowels moving. Exercise helps to prevent haemorrhoids in two ways. First being more active avoids periods of prolonged sitting. Exercising also helps to avoid excess weight, which will recue pressure extra pressure on the rectal veins.
Who is at risk of haemorrhoids?
Risk factors for haemorrhoids include:
- Low fibre, high fat diet
- Prolonged sitting
- Anal sex