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Hemorrhoids are inflamed or swollen veins that are present around the anal region. At times, these veins can also be present inside the lower part of the rectum. They are classified into two types based on their location. They are external hemorrhoids and the internal hemorrhoids.
External hemorrhoids present just under the skin surrounding the anal region; while internal hemorrhoids are present in the lower portion of the rectum and tend to protrude into the anus. Most hemorrhoids disappear on their own, while some stay on. It is the ones that remain are the ones that cause pain and need treatment.
Presence of blood in the stools or while passing stools is one of the first symptoms of the presence of hemorrhoids. Prolapsed internal hemorrhoids cause pain, discomfort and itching around the anal region. External hemorrhoids are characterized by the formation of blood clots in the area. This is called a vein thrombosis. These thrombosied veins form a hard lump-like structure around the anus. They cause bleeding and swelling, which is rather painful. Sometimes the blood clots go away leaving loose extra skin behind. Undue straining, rubbing and cleaning the rectal area may irritate the skin and cause pain.
Hemorrhoids are not life-threatening. Those suffering from hemorrhoids may sometimes not have any symptoms at all. In cases where there are symptoms, they may also slowly disappear after treatment.
Seventy percent of people tend to develop hemorrhoids at some point of their lives. This disease is most common among people in the age group of forty-five to sixty-five, and also among pregnant women.
Inflammation of the veins present in the rectum results in hemorrhoids. Many factors contribute to the swelling of the veins, such as constipation, diarrhea, straining while passing the stools, consuming a diet that does not contain fiber, and/or deteriorating connective tissue present in the rectal and anal region. The former usually develops as a person ages. In case of pregnant women, pressure from the abdomen results in enlargement of the veins. This condition may gradually disappear after child birth.
Doctors undertake a physical examination to conclude whether it is really hemorrhoids, as many of the symptoms are akin to those of fissures, abscesses warts and polyps. Usually gloved fingers are put into the anus to ascertain the nature of the disease. It is followed up with a digital rectal examination with an anoscope (hollow and lighted tube). A correct assessment of the disease is necessary as blood in the stools also occurs in other digestive diseases, like colorectal cancer.
Medical examinations with specialized equipment like the colonoscope and sigmoid scope are undertaken to rule out the possibility of other diseases in people who more than forty years old.
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National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse (NDDIC): Hemorrhoids