Hemorrhoids are normal collections of blood vessels, nerves and connective tissue that are present in everyone and are thought to help ease the passage of stool and lessen the trauma to the anal canal and anal opening. When they enlarge, hemorrhoids may protrude and may become symptomatic. The cause of this enlargement is unknown but has been associated with hard stools or constipation, prolonged sitting on the toilet, pregnancy, hereditary influences and a variety of other factors. Simple measures can help alleviate the pain and irritation associated with hemorrhoids.
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Symptoms of hemorrhoidal disease include pain, bleeding, difficulty with cleaning after a bowel movement, itching and minor soiling of the underwear. Enlarged hemorrhoids that protrude from the anus are referred to as a hemorrhoidal prolapse, and a prolapse can worsen any of the symptoms. It is vitally important that patients see a colon and rectal specialist, or proctologist, to be sure the symptoms are caused by hemorrhoids and not by a more serious condition.
Under the guidance of a physician, prescription-strength hydrocortisone ointment can greatly relieve symptoms. Hydrocortisone is a potent anti-inflammatory medication and must be used with care. Prolonged use may weaken the skin and actually cause other symptoms. Occasionally, hydrocortisone suppositories may by prescribed for symptoms caused by hemorrhoids that are located higher in the anal canal.
There are many other treatments for hemorrhoids, but the easiest and most commonly overlooked remedy is to permanently discontinue using any type of soap on the anal area. The anus is remarkably efficient at self-cleaning, and soap irritates the anal tissue and any associated hemorrhoids. Additional treatment of hemorrhoidal symptoms will be ineffective if soap is used continually on the anus. Gentle wiping with hygienic wipes is effective and less irritating to the anal area; avoid vigorous wiping with toilet tissue after bowel movements. An easy bowel movement will alleviate hemorrhoidal symptoms. Nutritional bulking agents such as fiber will help attain this goal. Avoid prolonged sitting on the toilet, as this may cause or worsen hemorrhoidal symptoms.
A proctologist can educate patients about additional hemorrhoidal treatment when these measures fail to alleviate symptoms.
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