Not all anal irritations are hemorrhoids. Some could be fissures, some could be an abscess or fistula, some could be just an itch. Hemorrhoids could occur inside the anus or just outside. All they are, happen to be blood vessels in this area that swell up. Though they are not dangerous, they could be uncomfortable or painful.
Why do blood vessels in the anus and lower rectum swell up and cause this condition? This could be due to a variety of reasons from aging and constipation to pregnancy and a displaced uterus. The swelling could be right inside the anus or just outside, under the skin. Sometimes, there are absolutely no symptoms. Sometimes, it can swell up a lot and be painful. This happens with an internal hemorrhoid when it swells up and protrudes outside the rectum. It could happen with an external one when there is a hard lump or clot formed under the skin outside. Whether it is a protruding internal hemorrhoid or a thrombosed internal one, it can be quite uncomfortable and medical attention should be sought at once.
Just in case there is no pain or discomfort, how do you know you have hemorrhoids? In most cases, there is bleeding and any blood in the stools or toilet tissue should immediately be referred to a doctor so he can diagnose the condition. You need to have this checked to rule out the possibility of intestinal bleeding as sometimes, this is a symptom of colon cancer. A doctor normally would put you through a physical examination which involves probing the area with his gloved hand. This, while being a bit uncomfortable, maybe embarrassing, is not painful as doctors use lubrication on their gloves. He might ask to you go in for further tests like examination with an anoscope or a proctoscope, which are basically instruments meant to view the swelling more clearly. If he suspects that the bleeding could be due to problems in the intestine, he might ask you to go through a colonoscopy or a sigmoidoscopy. Here, tubes are inserted into the intestine through the rectum in order to view the whole colon, or just the lower part of the colon as the case may be.
Hemorrhoids as such are not harmful. Sometimes, it comes on with age. If it is a problem that is due to constipation, the hemorrhoids shrink back to normal once the problem is taken care of. Pregnancy very often causes this condition. The pressure that is exerted on the rectum by the growing fetus usually causes the blood vessels to swell. In most cases, the condition subsides shortly after the baby is born.
Almost half the people all over the world experience this problem by the time they hit fifty. However, in many cases, it is just a benign condition that does not really affect normal, everyday life. One should try and keep constipation at bay so that there is no straining and pressure on the anus. A diet that includes fruits and vegetables helps as it contains fiber. So does regular exercise. It would be better not to control the urge to empty one’s bowels and not to sit too long in the toilet.