Hemorrhoids: what are they?

Hemorrhoids are very common and can occur at any time during adulthood. They are not normally visible (internal hemorrhoids) but can also appear as small veins under the skin around the anal verge (external hemorrhoids). Hemorrhoids can have starting point symptoms such as bleeding, discomfort, swelling and pain.

On an anatomical level, hemorrhoids are normal vascular structures shaped like tiny cushions. They contain enlarged blood vessels and can be located either inside (internal hemorrhoid) or around the anus (external hemorrhoid). Due to their vascularity and sensitive location, exposure to certain risk factors can cause an increase in venous pressure and abnormal dilation of blood vessels, resulting in the symptoms of hemorrhoidal disease.

References

1. Perniceni T, Godeberge P. Anatomy. In: Godeberge P ed. Anorectal Diseases Textbook. Paris, France: Flammarion Medecine Science; 2008:3-12.
2. Loder PB, Kamm MA, Nicholls RJ, Phillips RK. Haemorrhoids: pathology, pathophysiology and aetiology. Br J Surg. 1994 Jul;81(7):946-954.

Hemorrhoidal symptoms: bleeding, anal pain

Bleeding is a symptom common but not specific to hemorrhoids. A small amount of bright red blood after wiping can indicate hemorrhoids, and it’s advisable to make an appointment with your doctor to make sure it is not a sign of a more serious condition such as cancer. Although many people delay seeing their doctor for fear of embarrassment or discomfort, a physical exam is crucial as it is impossible to give an accurate diagnosis without it. This examination is actually quite painless and simple (for more information see: seeing your doctor).

References

1. Jacobs D. Clinical practice. Hemorrhoids. N Engl J. Med. 2014;371(10):944-951.

Hemorrhoids symptoms: swelling

Sometimes, the only symptom of hemorrhoids is a sensation of a foreign mass inside the anal canal. This is most frequently caused by swollen hemorrhoids, which can range in size from a few millimeters to several centimeters. They are often the result of previous trauma to the tissue (caused by straining during constipation, etc.), which have developed into irregularities and protrusions on the skin surface. These skin tags are permanent and asymptomatic, unless they are large; in which case they may create possible discomfort and itching.

References

1. Jacobs D. Clinical practice. Hemorrhoids. N Engl J Med. 2014;371(10):944-951.

What are the most common myths and legends about hemorrhoids?

There are many myths and legends about hemorrhoids and what can cause them. Some popular ones include:

  • Constipation causes hemorrhoids
  • Spicy foods cause hemorrhoids
  • Bright red blood in stools is always a sign of hemorrhoids
  • Sedentary lifestyles cause hemorrhoids

Click on the videos below to find out more.