Haemorrhoids are commonly referred to as ‘piles’ and are a very common medical condition. They are predominantly a circulatory problem that tends to get more common as we get older. They are basically an inflammation or swelling of the veins located in the lower area of the rectum or anus which causes pain, irritation, and bleeding. They are more common in women than men and this is often as a result of the circulatory pressure in this area during pregnancy. Chronic constipation is also a risk factor. It is important that you know early on if you have haemorrhoids so that you can start effective treatment.
How to detect haemorrhoids
Haemorrhoids are a problem that can be detected early but the symptoms are often ignored or dismissed as ‘just one of those things.’ Here are some common symptoms that may indicate that you have haemorrhoids.
- Anal itchiness
- Anal pain or discomfort, especially when sitting down
- Bleeding especially during bowel movements
- Swelling or inflammation in the anal area
Many people choose to ignore the fact that they have haemorrhoids because they are embarrassed – this is especially true of older men. They do not wish to discuss matters relating to their bottoms and bowel movements so they just pretend that it is not happening. This is not a sensible course of action. It is unlikely that the problem will go away by itself and it is actually likely to get much worse.
It is much better to make yourself an appointment with your family doctor and have a frank discussion about what is going on. This is a very common medical condition and your doctor will be dealing with issues like this every day. You can get your treatment up and running and sort out the problem instead of suffering in silence.
Treatment for Haemorrhoids
Dietary changes and self-care
If constipation is thought to be the cause of your haemorrhoids, you need to keep your stools soft and regular, so that you don’t strain when passing stools.
You can do this by increasing the amount of fibre in your diet. Good sources of fibre include wholegrain bread, cereal, fruit and vegetables. Read more about preventing constipation.
You should also drink plenty of water and avoid caffeine (found in tea, coffee and cola).
Follow the below advice when going to the toilet:
- avoid straining to pass stools, as this may make your haemorrhoids worse
- after passing a stool, use moist toilet paper or baby wipes to clean your bottom, rather than dry toilet paper
- pat the area around your bottom, rather than rubbing it
There are many medications that can be used to successfully treat haemorrhoids. However, everyone is different and what works for one person may not be so effective in another. You may need to try several treatments until you reach the right one for you.
Over-the-counter topical treatments
Various creams, ointments and suppositories (which are inserted into your bottom) are available from pharmacies and you can get these without seeing your doctor. They are designed to relieve swelling and discomfort.
However, you must only use them for a very limited time because prolonged use can irritate the sensitive skin around your anus. If the medication has not worked you should go and see your family doctor and discuss other options. Do not use more than one product at the same time.
If you have severe inflammation in and around your back passage, your GP may prescribe corticosteroid cream. Corticosteroid cream must not be used for more than a week at a time, as it can make the skin around your anus thinner. This will make bleeding and irritation worse.
If you are in great pain because of your piles you can try taking paracetamol but never take codeine painkillers, as they can cause constipation and this just makes the piles worse!
Products that contain local anaesthetic (painkilling medication) may also be prescribed by your GP to treat painful haemorrhoids. Like over-the-counter treatments, these should only be used for a few days, as they can make the skin around your anus more sensitive.
All treatments must be combined with an appropriate diet and adequate hydration. It is important to keep your stools soft so that they can be passed easily without straining.