Are hemorrhoids serious?

Hemorrhoid disease is a bunch of swollen blood vessels in the lower part of the rectum and anal region. Are hemorrhoids serious? The answer is not that simple so read on to learn whether they are so serious or not.

Most people don’t know this but hemorrhoids are blood vessels that act as cushions to control stool movement. They become a disease due to regular strain while bowel movements or when you are sitting. The strain causes the blood vessels in the rectum or anal region to swell up or become inflamed.

More often they don’t need much treatment and you can get rid of them by following a high fiber diet, drinking enough water, exercising, using stool softeners, or laxatives.

Hemorrhoids that occur in the lower part of the rectum are known as internal hemorrhoids. Usually, internal hemorrhoids are less painful in comparison to external hemorrhoids.

Are hemorrhoids serious
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Symptoms:

  • Blood in the stool
  • Prolapsed hemorrhoids: tissues that bulge out when you poop and go back inside themselves.

Hemorrhoids that occur in the anal region are known as external hemorrhoids. These are veins surrounding the anal region that have dilated and become hard and lumpy due to blood clots or thrombosis.

Symptoms:

  • Itching
  • pain and discomfort
  • bloody stool
  • swelling around the anal region

What happens if you don’t treat hemorrhoids?

First, we need to understand why hemorrhoid disease happens. Hemorrhoids are blood vessels that are unlike arteries or veins as they don’t have any muscle tissue in them. They are present just to help with the closing of the anal region for smooth movement of stool.

However, when there is increased strain on our stomach, rectum, and anal region then the hemorrhoid blood vessels start to grow in size to control the movement of stool.

Now, if we don’t treat the underlying cause or overlook the hemorrhoid disease then it will continue to grow from internal to external hemorrhoids and cause a great amount of pain.

Can Hemorrhoids cause cancer?

No, hemorrhoids do not cause cancer. Although symptoms of hemorrhoids and colon or anal cancer are very similar yet they are very different and hemorrhoids do not lead to colon or anal cancer.

Both can cause symptoms such as bleeding in the stool, pain, discomfort, and itching. So it is difficult to know what are you suffering from exactly which is why it is very important that you go for an early diagnosis.

Colon or anal cancer causes some symptoms which are a little different than hemorrhoids such as:

  • A feeling of incomplete emptying
  • pain and discomfort in the stomach
  • Fatigue
  • weakness
  • nausea
  • prolong irregular bowel movements ( Diarrhea or constipation)

Factors that increase your risk of colorectal cancer:

Age: Although colorectal cancer occurs in people of all ages. However, studies have found its occurrence in people older than 50 years of age.

Race: Research studies suggest that African Americans die more from colorectal cancer than any other race. 1

Gender: According to the Global Cancer Statistics 2018 men are known to suffer more from colorectal cancer than women.

Family History: People whose first-degree relatives had colorectal cancer at a young age are at high risk. However, the risk is less if it is not their first-degree relatives who suffered from colorectal cancer or if they had it at an older age that is after 50 years.

Inflammatory bowel disease: Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) causes the inflammation of the digestive tract which includes all organs involved in the digestion from mouth to anus. This disease can even damage the digestive tract and cause thinning of the intestinal walls. It is known to progress to colorectal cancer too.

Please note that inflammatory bowel syndrome (IBS) is the inflammation of the gastrointestinal tract and it is different from inflammatory bowel disease, IBS does not progress to cancer.

Sedentary lifestyle and obesity: Obesity is known to disrupt the function of important hormones such as insulin and leptin which maintain blood sugar levels and cell growth.

Obesity and a sedentary lifestyle may become a reason for colorectal cancer, around 11% of colorectal cancer in Europe is associated with a sedentary lifestyle and obesity. 2

Eating habits: Red meat, high sodium diet, processed food items contain a variety of additives, preservatives, and compounds in them that can cause colorectal cancer. 3

Diagnosis of hemorrhoids:

Visual examination to look for bulging lumps around the anal region.

Digital rectal exam: doctor wears a glove and inserts a finger inside your rectum looking for lumps or any other abnormality

Anoscopy, Sigmoidoscopy, Colonoscopy: These tests are performed using a tube that has a light and camera at one end.

Anoscopy is primarily the examination of the anus, sigmoidoscopy is the examination of the lower part of the colon and colonoscopy is the examination of the whole colon using the above-mentioned equipment.

Self Treatment:

  • High Fiber diet
  • Drink enough water
  • exercise regularly
  • maintain hygiene and clean your anal region properly after a bowel movement
  • Over-the-counter ointment and medications
  • fiber supplement
  • sitz bath

Medical Procedures:

  • Cauterization
  • Sclerotherapy
  • Rubber band ligation
  • Stapled hemorrhoidopexy

The medical procedures are used when self-treatment fails to cure your hemorrhoid disease. Self-treatment is effective for most people in case of hemorrhoid disease. However, avoiding hemorrhoid disease can make them worse and you may have to go for medical procedures for treatment. 4

Self-treatment focuses on the underlying problem which is why the chances of reoccurrence are low or less. However, medical procedures are more focused on removing the defected hemorrhoid tissues which do not solve the underlying problem.

Hence, it is very important to keep following a high fiber diet, drink plenty of water, and maintain an active lifestyle to stay away from hemorrhoids after the medical procedures too.

Complications of hemorrhoids:

Anemia: If you lose too much blood through hemorrhoids then you will face dizziness, shortness of breath, fatigue, and weakness as you would have lost a good number of red blood cells which are needed to carry oxygen throughout the body.

Prolapsed hemorrhoids: These bulge out from the anus and can be very painful while sitting or passing stool. Internal and external hemorrhoids both can turn into prolapsed hemorrhoids so it is very important to treat hemorrhoid problems timely.

Blood clots or thrombosis: The blood in the hemorrhoid is cut off from the normal blood circulation which is why blood clot formation is normal if the hemorrhoid is not treated timely. They can cause a lot of pain while sitting and during a bowel movement.

Infection: There is a high chance of catching an infection in the external bleeding hemorrhoids which can cause fever and other complications. Antibiotics can help with such conditions.

Skin tags: After the hemorrhoid becomes normal and losses the swelling there is still extra skin left.

Strangulated hemorrhoids: they are formed when the blood supply gets cut off due to which a blood clot starts forming and they cause a lot of pain while walking, sitting, and during bowel movements.

Overview

Hemorrhoids are very common in most people and they don’t cause pain or discomfort most of the time. Internal hemorrhoids cause negligible symptoms mostly due to fewer pain-sensing nerves inside the rectum as compared to the anal region.

Early diagnosis and treatment can save you from the more complicated form of hemorrhoids such as prolapsed, strangulated, or thrombosed hemorrhoids which are much more painful compared to the initial form of hemorrhoids.

Now, to answer the question finally, “Are hemorrhoids serious?”- the hemorrhoidal disease itself is not so serious but just like any disease, it can become a serious threat if you neglect it and do not treat it timely.

Visit a doctor if your symptoms do not go away with the self-treatment. So, you can rule out the possibility of any serious disease and start your treatment timely even if you are suffering from a hemorrhoidal disease.

About the author

Deepanshu has a Master's in chemistry. He has worked extensively on research subjects regarding cancer and radio nuclear science and has continually reviewed nutrition science.

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