Haemorrhoids, also called piles, are swollen veins in your anus and lower rectum, similar to varicose veins. In their normal state, they are cushions that help with stool control. They become a problem when they get swollen or inflamed.
The causes of haemorrhoids are not completely clear. One of the main reasons is constipation, which is associated with difficulty in emptying and sitting on the toilet for a long time. This is influenced by poor diet, not enough fibre in food consumed and dehydration. Other factors that influence this disease include obesity, low activity, long-term sitting or standing work, pregnancy, heavy object lifting, genetics and connective tissue weakness.
Main symptoms include bleeding while emptying, especially if red blood appears at the end of emptying, discomfort, itching and stretching. Painful bowel movements and painful lumps near the anus are signs of chronic haemorrhoids.
If haemorrhoids are suspected the patient should see a doctor who will perform examinations to determine the type of the disease, its nature, and if needed they will perform proctoscopy for greater accuracy of diagnosis.
Haemorrhoids treatment depends on the stage of the disease. Nowadays, there’s a greater emphasis on a healthy lifestyle and approximately 80% of patients will see a specialist with the initial symptoms when it is easier to treat the disease.
If the condition does not improve with medication, interventional treatment may be required. One of the most effective less-invasive treatment methods is internal haemorrhoids ligation with rubber bands.
This procedure only lasts for a few minutes and the internal haemorrhoids eventually fall off by themselves. This is not painful because the mucous membrane does not have pain receptors, therefore anesthesia and painkillers are not needed, and the patient can get back to normal life straight away after the procedure.
When patients have enlarged, severe haemorrhoids that cannot be treated by conservative methods, surgery is needed.
Removal of haemorrhoids using regional or general anesthesia is a simple surgery that lasts around 30 minutes. After the surgery, the patient spends not longer than 24 hours in the hospital.
Complete recovery can take 3-4 weeks after the surgery with the first week being the most severe. The anal and perianal areas are very sensitive, they store multiple receptors (including pain receptors), and therefore even the slightest wound can cause great discomfort. However, after the wounds have healed and the haemorrhoid symptoms have disappeared the life quality greatly improves.
If not treated, bleeding becomes heavier, discomfort grows and pain increases. The disease will progress and the only treatment will be surgical. Ignoring haemorrhoids can have great consequences, such as rectal cancer and other disorders.
Since haemorrhoids are usually a lifestyle disease, it is very important to maintain a healthy diet (drink a lot of fluids, choose foods that are high in fibre, avoid alcohol and spicy food). Physical activity, such as walking, swimming and cycling will help too.
If you have haemorrhoids symptoms or your condition is getting worse, please book a consultation with our experienced surgeon.