What are Haemorrhoids?
Haemorrhoids are small, blood-filled swellings, caused by dilated (varicose) veins of the rectum or anus, that cause anal bleeding, itching and discomfort. They may be located at the beginning of the anal canal (internal haemorrhoids) or at the anal opening (external haemorrhoids) and may be present for years, but go undetected until bleeding occurs. Haemorrhoids are not dangerous
What are the Symptoms of Haemorrhoids?
- Rectal bleeding: bright-red blood may appear as small stains on toilet paper or as a slow trickle for a short time following bowel movements.
- Pain, itching or mucus discharge following bowel movements.
- A lump can be felt in the anus.
- A sensation that the rectum has not emptied completely after a bowel movement, this is only felt if you have large haemorrhoids.
What are the Causes of Haemorrhoids?
Constipation and straining during bowel movements may cause haemorrhoids by increasing the pressure in the anal or rectal veins. Other factors that may contribute to haemorrhoids include a low fibre diet, prolonged sitting or standing, obesity, anal intercourse, pregnancy and loss of muscle tone due to old age or rectal surgery.
Traditional Medical Treatments for Haemorrhoids
In many cases haemorrhoids can be controlled by simple measures:
- Change of diet: your doctor may recommend a high fibre diet and more green vegetables, fresh fruit, wholegrain cereals and bran. You will also be encouraged to increase the amount of fluids you drink each day.
- Over the counter or prescription creams are available and will relieve discomfort and itching and reduce swelling in mild cases.
- Laxative drugs may be prescribed to prevent constipation and soften the stools.
More troublesome haemorrhoids may require additional treatment.
Complementary/Alternative Treatments for Haemorrhoids
Fiber shows a consistent beneficial effect in relieving hemorrhoid symptoms and bleeding. It can soften stool and increase its bulk, which helps to reduce straining. Seven randomized trials with a total of 378 participants have found fiber improved symptoms including itching, discomfort, and pain. Bioflavonoids are a type of plant compound that are thought to work by stabilizing and strengthening blood vessel walls and by decreasing inflammation. They have been found to reduce anal discomfort, pain, and anal discharge during an acute hemorrhoid attack. Side effects of bioflavonoids appear to be mild and rare, making them a promising treatment for hemorrhoids in pregnancy (the flavonoid tangeretin however, shouldn’t be used by people taking tamoxifen for breast cancer).