Hemorrhoids are veins, normally present in and around the anus and lower rectum that have become swollen due to stretching under pressure. These are very common in both men and women and about half the population has hemorrhoids by age 50. Hemorrhoids are also common in pregnant women due to the pressure of the fetus in the abdomen, as well as hormonal changes, which cause hemorrhoidal vessels to enlarge. The process of childbirth also puts severe stress of these vessels.
Hemorrhoids are either internal (inside the anus) or external (under the skin around the anus).
Medical treatment of hemorrhoids is aimed at relieving symptoms and may include the following:
- Sitting in plain, warm water in the tub several times a day
- Ice packs to reduce swelling
- Application of hemorrhoidal creams or suppositories
In some cases, it is necessary to treat hemorrhoids surgically. Several surgical techniques are used to remove or reduce internal and external hemorrhoids. These include the following:
- Rubber band ligation. A rubber band is placed around the base of the hemorrhoid inside the rectum to cut off circulation to the hemorrhoid. The hemorrhoid then gradually shrinks and withers away within a few days.
- Sclerotherapy. A chemical solution is injected around the blood vessel to shrink the hemorrhoid.
- Electrical or laser coagulation or infrared photo coagulation. Techniques that use special devices to burn hemorrhoidal tissue.
- Hemorrhoidectomy. A surgical procedure that permanently removes the hemorrhoids.