Piles is another name for hemorrhoids that affects about 10 million people in the US which translates to 4.4% of the population. Piles are painful and can hinder you from going about your duties normally, a good example being Napoleon who historians believe lost the battle of Waterloo because of a case of hemorrhoids! So what are piles and what can you do get better? This article will answer these questions and give you important information on piles.
What are Piles (Hemorrhoids)?
Piles are engorged blood vessels present in the anus and lower side of the rectum. They cause symptoms such as discomfort while sitting, pain, itchiness, and rectal bleeding. These symptoms become more pronounced during bowel movements and a few hours afterward.
What Causes Piles?
Piles result from the repeated subjection of pressure on the blood vessels of the anus and rectum. This pressure can be from various sources:
Chronic constipation is the condition where a person passes stool less than three times in a week and when they do, it’s strained because the stool is hardened. This puts a lot of pressure on the blood vessels in the anus and rectum and causes them to swell. Find the relief HERE.
Frequently passing stool because of diarrhea strains the anus and rectum just as much as hard stool does. When it goes on for too long, their vessels become inflamed.
Sitting for Too long
Sitting for extended periods of time stretches the tissue and muscles of your anus and rectum. This makes their blood vessels bulge and distend with blood.
Some factors put people at a higher risk of developing piles such as:
Obesity or Being Overweight
When you are obese or overweight, the excess body weight may press on the veins and cause them to swell.
About half of the people above the age of 50 years suffer from piles. This is because the supporting tissue of the anus and rectum weakens as people age which means that they can hardly handle strain without resulting in piles.
As a fetus grows in the womb, it places more and more pressure on the inferior vena cava, a major blood vessel that transports blood from the lower parts of the body to the heart. This affects the blood flow in the rectum and anus so piles may develop. Read more about pregnancy and hemorrhoid HERE.
The likelihood of developing piles can be passed down to you by your parents. This is because you may be predisposed to having weak anus and rectum muscles.
Self-Help for Piles
When piles are small, you can treat them on your own using easily available home remedies. Some of the remedies you can try include:
You can find topical ointments, creams, and suppositories at your local drugstore that you can use to relieve the itchiness, pain, and inflammation of piles. They are made from anti-itch and anti-inflammation compounds like hydrocortisone.
You can make a cold compress by putting ice inside a towel and pressing it to the piles. Ice reduces pain, inflammation, and irritation because it shrinks the swollen veins.
A sitz bath is a small bowl of warm water you can fit over your toilet. After bowel movements, you can sit in it to relieve the inflammation, pain, and irritation. This is achieved because warm water soothes and improves blood flow.
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How You Can Treat or Prevent Piles?
Some of the methods doctors use to treat piles are:
In this method, a rubber band is tied to the base of the hemorrhoid to cut off blood supply and after some time, it shrinks or falls off because it lacks nutrients.
This is another method used to shrink piles where they are injected with a chemical. It’s a simple procedure that only takes moments and is done in a doctor’s office.
This is a surgical procedure where piles are cut open and the swollen blood vessels are taken out. Hemorrhoidectomy is painful and needs anesthesia.
Prevention is a far better option for piles than spending a pretty penny seeking treatment. Some of the ways you can prevent them include:
Eat Fiber-Rich Foods
Fiber is very important part of your diet because it adds to the bulk of your stool and softens it so that you don’t have trouble passing it. Examples of foods you can get lots of fiber from are whole grains, legumes, fruits, vegetables, nuts, and seeds.
Water is the medium that soluble fiber uses to dissolve in to create a gel-like substance that softens stool. You should drink at least 6 glasses of water daily to prevent constipation and piles.
Go to the Toilet Immediately
Ignoring the urge to pass stool gives it time to harden so that when you pass it, it strains the anus and rectum. Go as soon as you feel the urge to prevent any possible build up of piles.
Exercising regularly helps to keep stool moving quickly out of the digestive tract. This prevents it from hardening and becoming too difficult to pass.
Complications of Piles
Complications rarely follow piles but they do occur. Some of these complications are:
- Blood clots – Blood clots sometimes form inside piles and hinder the flow of blood so pressure builds up, causing extreme pain. These are known as thrombosed hemorrhoids.
- Anemia – When hemorrhoids bleed too much, it may result in anemia where you lack enough red blood cells.
- Prolapse – Piles in the rectum may sometimes protrude out the anus and cause you discomfort while sitting. These are known as prolapsed hemorrhoids.
Piles can be very bothersome and painful but the good news is that they are treatable and preventable! You can also read: How to get rid of hemorrhoids for good: types, causes and treatments