What are piles?
Piles are another name for hemorrhoids. Hemorrhoids are bumps caused by swollen veins in and around the anus. They got the nickname piles from the Latin word “pila,” which means ball. Piles can look like balls, hence the name.
Typically, piles can cause discomfort and minor bleeding. In some cases, a blood clot can form inside a hemorrhoid and be very painful.
There are a few types of hemorrhoids. Each has its own set of symptoms.
The different types include:
- Internal: These are up inside your rectum and you can’t see or feel them. Piles can cause blood to be visible on your feces. They sometimes bulge out of your anus. This is called “prolapse” and it can be painful.
- External: Hemorrhoids that form on the outside of your anus can be itchy or painful. They can get swollen and bleed if they are irritated. If an external hemorrhoid develops a blood clot inside it, it’s called a “thrombosed hemorrhoid.” They may look purple or blue and cause a lot of pain.
Piles happen when pressure affects the blood flow to veins in your rectum. That makes the veins swell. It doesn’t take much pressure to cause the swelling. Common causes of hemorrhoids include:
Who can get piles?
Anyone can get hemorrhoids. They are very common, but you may be more likely to have them if you have family members who have also had piles. Pregnancy increases the risk of piles as well.
If you think you have hemorrhoids, you can speak to your doctor about them. They will ask about your symptoms and medical history. They will likely need to look at the area around your anus and ask for a stool sample to see if there is blood on your feces.
In some cases, your doctor will need to examine the inside of your rectum. They might be able to do that with just a digital exam (using her finger to feel for piles). They might also need to use an anoscope—a slim tube containing a light—to see inside your rectum.
If your doctor is concerned that there is a problem more serious than piles, they might recommend a colonoscopy to rule out cancer or polyps.
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Treatments for piles
In most cases, you can manage symptoms from piles at home. Sometimes you need surgery to repair them.
You can use over the counter hemorrhoid creams or wipes to relieve the discomfort they cause. They help with pain and itching
If you have a clot in a hemorrhoid, you can take over-the-counter pain medications to manage that pain.
Cool water or ice can help bring down the swelling of hemorrhoids. You can apply an ice pack to the affected area. You can also try a Sitz bath or sitting in a bathtub with warm water in it to relieve discomfort.
Reducing the pressure on your rectum helps with existing piles and prevents new ones from developing.
Some natural ways of managing hemorrhoids include:
- Eat enough fiber: A diet rich in fiber makes it easier to pass bowel movements without pressure and straining.
- Exercise: Regular activity improves bowel function.
- Listen to your body: Don’t delay if you feel like you need to move your bowels. Waiting too long can cause constipation and make piles worse.
- Sit comfortably: Choose a cushioned surface for sitting whenever possible. This reduces the pressure around your anus.
Outpatient procedures and surgery
If your piles don’t get better with home treatment, your doctor can try an outpatient procedure to make them better. Some simple repairs for piles are:
- Rubber band treatment: A tiny band is placed around the piles to cut off the blood supply so they disappear.
- Sclerotherapy: Your doctor injects liquid into your piles to make them shrink.
- Electrotherapy: Your doctor can use a mild electric current to shrink piles.
- Infrared coagulation: Infrared light can cut off the blood supply to piles to make them shrink.
If these procedures don’t work, you might need a hemorrhoidectomy to remove the bulging veins. This surgery requires general anesthesia and tends to have a painful recovery period.
Complications from piles
Most of the time, hemorrhoids aren’t dangerous. There can be occasional complications.
In rare cases, the following issues might arise:
- Skin tags: After a clot in a thrombosed hemorrhoid goes away, you may have a bit of loose skin, which could get irritated.
- Infection: External hemorrhoids can develop infections.
- Anemia: A hemorrhoid that causes serious bleeding that might result in a low red blood cell count.
- Strangulated hemorrhoid: If you have prolapsed hemorrhoid, it can lose blood supply due to muscles squeezing it. This may be very painful and require surgery.
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