Hemorrhoids, a very common condition, are swollen veins in the anal canal that can be very painful. There are two types of hemorrhoids: internal and external, which refer to their location. Swollen veins inside the anal canal form internal hemorrhoids; those just outside the anus form external hemorrhoids.
The most common cause of hemorrhoids is straining during bowel movements. Other causes include chronic constipation or diarrhea, sitting for long periods of time, pregnancy, and childbirth. Many patients have hemorrhoids because of genetic transmission from parents.
The symptoms of both internal and external hemorrhoids include bleeding during bowel movements, itching, anal ache or pain especially while sitting, one or more firm tender lumps near the anus. A hard painful lump may be due to blood in the swollen vein forming clots. This is called a thrombosed hemorrhoid.
Mild hemorrhoid symptoms can be relieved by home treatments including over-the-counter hemorrhoid creams, stool softeners, increase intake of dietary fibers, and sitz baths (sitting in warm water for 10 to 15 minutes at a time). If the hemorrhoids are not better with the home treatments, an Infrared Coagulation (heat treatment) to shrink the hemorrhoids may be an option. Rubber band ligation is another office procedure where a rubber band is placed around the bottom of the hemorrhoid, which cuts off blood flow to the hemorrhoid, causing it to slowly shrink. It is, in most cases, painless.
A Hemorrhoidectomy is a surgical procedure where the hemorrhoid is excised and the area sutured closed. It is usually reserved for more severe cases of hemorrhoids.