What are haemorrhoids?
Haemorrhoids are congested, dilated blood vessels in and around the anus and lower rectum. They are very common and you may not be aware of them. However, when symptoms do occur these include:
- Rectal bleeding – usually bright red in colour, particularly after passing a stool
- A lump you can feel hanging down outside your anus which you may be able to push back in
- Mucus discharge
What causes haemorrhoids?
Haemorrhoids are thought to be caused by increased pressure in the blood vessels in and around your anus. This may occur secondary to too much straining resulting from constipation. This in turn may be caused by a lack of fibre in your diet. Chronic diarrhoea also increases your chances of developing haemorrhoids.
Other risk factors include:
- Increasing age
- Heavy lifting
- Persistent cough
Haemorrhoids are diagnosed by examination of your back passage. Often a proctoscope is used, which is a thin hollow tube that allows your doctor to see just inside your anus. A flexible sigmoidoscopy or colonoscopy may then be recommended.
Simple treatment options include modification of your diet to increase your fluid and fibre intake. Over the counter creams and ointments are also available which may help. If these simple measures do not improve your symptoms then a specialist opinion should be sought. A specialist colorectal surgeon will assess your haemorrhoids and decide on appropriate treatment depending on the size and location of your haemorrhoids. Please refer to the treatment pages of this website for more a detailed description.
Banding – if you have small, internal haemorrhoids then banding may be appropriate.
Haemorrhoidal artery ligation (HALO) – an operation to reduce the blood flow to the haemorrhoids making them shrink.
Haemorrhoidectomy – an operation to excise the haemorrhoids.
Rafaelo procedure – a new technique that uses radiofrequency ablation to shrink the haemorrhoids.