Hemorrhoids are masses or clumps of tissue within the anal canal that are made up off blood vessels and supporting tissue, which is made up of muscle and elastic fibers. The anal canal is the last four centimeters that stool passes from the rectum. Even though people assume that hemorrhoids are abnormal, everyone has them.
It is only when they become enlarged are they considered abnormal or a disease. Only about four percent of the public experience problems with hemorrhoids. They are found equally in men and woman and usually occur when a person is between 45-65 years old.
It is unknown what truly causes hemorrhoids to enlarge, but there are many theories. The high intake of fiber could be one. There is a theory that they are caused from sitting too long on the toilet or having chronic constipation. The only clear theory is pregnancy. It is not clear why, but it is common in pregnant woman.
Tumors that are in the pelvis area can cause the enlargement because they press on the veins. Another theory is from the force of hard stool. The passing through the canal, it can drag the hemorrhoid cushions downward. Sometimes with age, the hemorrhoid tissue begins to deteriorate and slides down the anal canal.
Some of the symptoms of hemorrhoids are when you get pains in your lower abdomen or when you feel pressure near the intestines. When the hemorrhoid continues to enlarge, it will pull down a portion of the rectum lining and protrude from the anus.
This is called relapsing internal hemorrhoid. You may also find blood in stool. This is a sign of hemorrhoids. You may also experience anal itchiness, but this is less common. Sometimes mucus secretes from the rectal lining, it will cause the area to be constantly moist, and that will cause itching. Hemorrhoids do require some medical attention, because they can cause gangrene.
In general, if you feel any bulges or pressure near the anus, you could have hemorrhoids. When they are smaller, you may not feel anything because they have no effect on the function of the anus. External hemorrhoids are the ones that can cause the most problems. It can be very painful and requires medical attention. External hemorrhoids will heal, eventually, but scarring or discomfort when bathing may be a side effect.
When you seek medical attention, your doctor will put you on a grading system:
- First-degree hemorrhoids will bleed but not protrude from the anus.
- Second-degree hemorrhoids are protruding, but retract by them and can bleed.
- Third degree hemorrhoids are protruding and can be pushed back with a finger.
- The fourth degree hemorrhoid is protruding and cannot be pushed back in. They contain blood clots and pull much of the rectum through the anus.