From symptoms, to treatment, family GP, Dr Dawn Harper tells you everything you need to know about hemorrhoids
What are the symptoms?
Piles or hemorrhoids are swollen veins in the anus or lower rectum and are one of the most common causes of rectal bleeding. Some of the time it's just small amounts of bright red blood but occasionally piles can cause heavier bleeding. There are other possible causes of rectal bleeding though including cancer so this is one symptom that should never be ignored and should always be checked out by a doctor.
Other symptoms of piles include bleeding or mucus discharge after passing a stool, soreness, visible redness and swelling. Piles can be both internal and external with pain and irritation of the anus being the key indicator. The condition can leave sufferers feeling low in mood, uncomfortable, fed up, unclean, isolated and shocked or worried.
Who gets piles?
At least half of the population will suffer from them at some point in their lives. Most at risk of this common condition are people who suffer from constipation with almost one in two (49 per cent) developing piles, along with those who are pregnant or who have just given birth. Weight gain and a sedentary lifestyle can also trigger symptoms, as can regularly lifting heavy objects where people may find themselves straining or with diarrhoea, all key causes of hemorrhoids.
It affects all age groups, however the risk of increases with age, as your bodies supporting tissues get weaker, making the condition more prevalent in older people.
What causes piles?
Hermorrhoids are caused by swollen and enlarged blood vessels around the back passage, triggering discomfort, itching and irritation, particularly after a bowel movement.
Sitting on a very hot or cold surface, does not cause piles- as is commonly believed. It doesn’t matter what the temperature of the seat is, it is the sitting for long periods that increases your risk.
There is also no evidence to suggest hemorrhoids can be caused by hot, spicy or exotic foods. However, these foods may cause stomach upset which can create increased discomfort for those with piles when passing stools and in some cases can contribute to diarrhoea which can be painful during a flare-up.
The main causes are; sitting for long periods, not eating a balanced diet, lighting heavy objects, pregnancy and labour.
Can piles cause cancer?
There is no evidence that piles can cause colon cancer but the two conditions can present themselves in the same way with rectal bleeding, which is why this symptom must always be checked out by a doctor.
Can eating better improve your symptoms?
Since straining on the toilet is one of the most common reasons why hemorrhoids develop, avoiding constipation and having to strain is vital to improve symptoms. Eating a healthy diet that contains plenty of fresh fruit, vegetables and other fibre, drinking plenty of water, keeping active and keeping stress levels under control all help the bowel to function properly.
Should you exercise if you have piles?
Most exercise is good at preventing hemorrhoids with one possible exception. Weight lifting with poor technique may increase the pressure in the rectal veins increasing the risk of piles. If you do have piles regular exercise can help heal them and if you are susceptible to hemorrhoids, light regular exercise such as yoga, swimming or walking can help keep the colon more regular without placing a strain or increased abdominal pressure which can lead to piles.
How to treat piles and stop them reoccurring:
- Eat plenty of fibre
- Avoid processed or refined foods
- Drink plenty of water and fruit juices
- Avoid too much alcohol, tea and coffee
- Exercise regularly
- Try not to sit down for long periods of time or take an active break from sitting every 30 mins
- Don't get stressed
- Go to the toilet regularly
- Keep a check on your weight
- Don't wear tight clothes
- Treat the symptoms with a hemorrhoid cream such as Anusol or Germoloids
- Germoloids Suppositories are for internal use only and available in packs of 12 or 24 (RRP £3.25 and £4.99 respectively). For more information visit www.germoloids.co.uk.