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What is hemorrhoidal disease?

There are specialized structures like blood vessels in and around the anal canal that can become swollen and irritated when extra pressure is placed on them. These naturally occurring structures present in all people are called hemorrhoids. When they become irritated, we call it hemorrhoidal disease.

Symptoms

Symptoms of hemorrhoidal disease vary from person to person, but some common symptoms are:

  • Bright red blood in stool, on toilet paper or in the toilet bowl
  • Pain and irritation around the anus
  • Swelling or a hard lump around the anus
  • Itching

Causes

Hemorrhoidal disease can be caused by:

  • Straining during bowel movements
  • Pregnancy
  • A family history of hemorrhoids
  • Age
  • Long-term or chronic constipation or diarrhea

Risk factors

You are more likely to get hemorrhoidal disease if you:

  • Are pregnant
  • Sit on the toilet for too long
  • Are obese
  • Do things that make you strain more, like heavy lifting
  • Have a family history of hemorrhoids
  • Have long-term or chronic constipation or diarrhea
  • Are between 45 and 65 years old

How common is it?

Hemorrhoidal disease is very common. About half of all people experience symptoms by age 50.

How is it diagnosed?

To diagnose hemorrhoids, your doctor may recommend one or more of the following exams:

  • Physical exam
  • Digital rectum examination – Used to examine the rectum and the prostate gland.
  • Anoscopy – A physician uses a small lighted tube to view the anus and lower rectum.
  • Proctoscopy – A doctor uses a lighted tube called a proctoscope to look at the inside of the anus and rectum, and a tissue sample may be taken if needed for evaluation (a biopsy). 
  • Sigmoidoscopy – A procedure that allows the doctor to examine the lower one-third of the large intestine.
  • Colonoscopy – A procedure that allowed a physician to examine the entire length of the large intestine.

Types of treatment

Your doctor will assess your condition and its cause in order to determine treatment options. The goal of hemorrhoidal disease treatment is to reduce your symptoms. While medications or diet changes may be effective, there are cases where small procedures or surgery may be needed.

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