Hemorrhoids are a digestive disorder that half the population of men and women experience at age fifty. There are two types of hemorrhoids: internal and external. Internal hemorrhoids are found inside the anus or in the lower rectum. External hemorrhoids are found on the tissue surrounding the anal sphincters(the two rings of muscle surrounding the opening to the anus). Hemorrhoids are swollen blood vessels in and around the anus. Hemorrhoids are not a dangerous condition, they only cause pain or discomfort, and tend to go away within a few days. They are tissues that can stretch and swell under pressure. This constant swelling and stretching is the cause for the discomfort of the patient with hemorrhoids.
The symptoms for external hemorrhoids are itchy, swollen, lumps around the anal cavity. If the lumps become hard the hemorrhoids have become thrombosed external hemorrhoids. This occurs when the blood clots around a hemorrhoid. The symptoms of internal hemorrhoids include the appearance of blood. This can be seen covering feces, on used toilet paper, or on the patients underwear. External hemorrhoids are common among pregnant women, due to the constant pressure on their abdomens. If an internal hemorrhoid starts to poke out of the anus it is called a protruding hemorrhoid. A protruding hemorrhoid may need to be treated through surgery.
Hemorrhoids can be diagnosed by several types of examinations. External hemorrhoids are diagnosed simply by a doctor looking at the anus. The diagnosis of internal hemorrhoids requires probing. A doctor could perform a digital rectal exam. This is when a doctor wears a latex glove coated in Vaseline? and inserts a finger into the anus to feel for irregular lumps. Two other possible examinations require the use of hollowed out, flexible, lighted tubes. These tubes are called anoscopes or proctoscopes. These provide a visual of the rectum and anus.
Treatment for external hemorrhoids include: the application of medicated cream, soaking in warm water several times a day, and the use of ice packs to reduce swelling. External hemorrhoids are treated with suppositories(pills taken through the anus) and, in rare cases, with minor surgery. Since hemorrhoids are partly caused by large solid bowl movements one treatment used to prevent hemorrhoids is a fiber supplement. This allows less water to be absorbed into the large intestines, making a softer stool. Fiber supplements such as psylium(Metamucil?) and methyl cellulose(Citrucel?) are the most commonly prescribed.