Varicose Veins as Haemorrhoids or Piles

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Haemorrhoids or piles are varicose veins, which appear in the veins on the interior and exterior of the anus and rectum.

What Causes Haemorrhoids?

The specific cause of haemorrhoids is unknown although some people believe that it can be caused by straining whilst passing stools. Factors that increase your risk of developing haemorrhoids include:

  • Constipation which increases the pressure in the veins inside the anus
  • Pregnancy in which pressure on the anus is increased due to the baby lying above the anus, and in which the hormonal changes can have an effect on the veins
  • Aging can weaken the veins and the tissues surrounding the anus
  • Genetics can cause you to inherit a weakness in the walls of the veins making you susceptible to haemorrhoids

Symptoms of Internal Haemorrhoids

Internal haemorrhoids form about 3 cm above the opening of the anus and can go from small swellings that are not seen outside the anus to large swellings, which hang out of the anus and cannot be pushed back inside. Small haemorrhoids are normally pain- free but can cause bleeding after going to the toilet. Large haemorrhoids can cause a discharge of mucous, pain, irritation, and itching. The skin around the anus may become irritated and your anus may feel full even after passing stools. Large haemorrhoids can cause blood clots, which are not serious but can cause severe pain.

Symptoms of External Haemorrhoids

External haemorrhoids are less common than internal haemorrhoids and are small varicose veins, which develop on the outside of the anus. They do not usually cause any symptoms but can cause severe pain if a blood clot forms. This may cause bleeding but will gradually shrink becoming a skin- tag.

Treatment for Haemorrhoids

There are several treatments for haemorrhoids the most simple of which is to keep stools soft and avoid constipation. This is done by eating foods that are high in fibre and drinking plenty of water. You can also take fibre supplements. You should try to avoid pain- killers, which contain codeine and go to the toilet as soon as possible when you feel the need to go. You should avoid straining on the toilet after you have passed stools, as it is likely that it is the haemorrhoids causing the feeling of fullness.

You can also purchase ointments and creams to ease the symptoms of haemorrhoids. Weaker products are available without a prescription and can ease mild discomfort. If these do not work, you can get treatments with anaesthetics or steroids in them, which can relieve the discomfort and swelling. Pain- killers can be used to ease the pain of haemorrhoids but codeine should be avoided as it can worsen the situation.

If the above treatments do not relieve your symptoms, banding may be needed to treat your haemorrhoids. Banding is usually an outpatient treatment during which a surgeon places a rubber band at the base of your haemorrhoids. Once the blood supply has been cut off, the haemorrhoid will die and fall off within a few days. This is usually painless and can cure haemorrhoids although 20 % of patients have a recurrence.

Haemorrhoids can also be treated with sclerotherapy but the success rate of this is not as good as banding. You may also require surgery to remove the haemorrhoids if banding has been unsuccessful; this is known as a haemorrhoidectomy and requires a general anaesthetic. It is also possible to treat haemorrhoids with heat and stapling which reduces the blood supply to the haemorrhoids causing them to shrink.

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