Hemorrhoids are a common ailment, yet many people do not feel comfortable discussing their symptoms with their doctor. Despite excruciating pain, annoying itching and rectal bleeding, many people try to ignore their symptoms or treat them with home remedies.
A study published in the Journal of Family Practice showed that only one out of every three sufferers seek medical treatment. It is important to remember, however, that having a doctor confirm your diagnosis and offer treatment options based on your specific condition can help you feel better faster, as well as reduce your risk of recurrence.
Why is it important to see a doctor for hemorrhoid symptoms?
While you may automatically assume that rectal bleeding is simply hemorrhoids, it is paramount to see a doctor any time you see blood after a bowel movement or in your stool. Painless bleeding from the rectum is one of the most common symptoms of hemorrhoids. Hemorrhoidal tissue is irritated by the same hard stools that led to the development of inflamed hemorrhoids in the first place, and minor bleeding is the result. But many other more serious conditions can also cause similar symptoms.
Incorrectly diagnosing yourself with hemorrhoids and beginning treatment with over-the-counter medications or home remedies can be dangerous, because it allows these more serious conditions to advance unchecked. A doctor’s examination will confirm your diagnosis, and rule out conditions such as colitis and colon cancer.
There is no reason to panic. If you are seeing bright red blood on the toilet paper after a bowel movement, it is most likely hemorrhoids. The bleeding should be minor stop on its own in a few minutes. You do not need to rush to the emergency department, but scheduling an appointment with your family doctor or a colorectal specialist is a good idea to confirm your diagnosis and get treatment started right away.
How should hemorrhoids be treated at home?
Based on your symptoms and the severity of your hemorrhoids, your doctor will most likely recommend that you use conservative treatment at home to alleviate your pain and discomfort while your hemorrhoids heal. This treatment may include:
- Sitz baths: Soaking for 15 minutes in a tub with several inches of warm water a few times a day can greatly reduce inflammation, pain and itching. Some doctors recommend epsom salts in a sitz bath, although other prefer patients soak in only plain water.
- Dietary changes: Constipation is a prime cause of hemorrhoids, and it also worsens the symptoms of the condition. Your doctor will probably recommend that you increase your fiber intake and drink more water in order to soften your stool and ease bowel movements. Stool softeners may also be prescribed.
- Cleaning properly after bowel movements: A sitz bath can be used after using the bathroom, or a quick shower provides a better alternative to wiping the rectal area with toilet paper. It is also important to dry the skin carefully by patting it dry with a soft cloth or using a hair drier on a warm setting.
- Reduce time spent sitting: Sitting puts pressure on the anus and may worsen hemorrhoid symptoms. Your doctor may recommend that you take regular breaks from sitting to stretch or take a walk.
- Over-the-counter treatments: One reason it is so important to talk about your symptoms with your doctor is because OTC medications are not always a good idea for every patient with hemorrhoids. Some creams can relieve symptoms, but may also prolong healing time. Use only the medications that your doctor specifically recommends for your treatment.
Is surgery necessary to relieve my symptoms?
In most cases, noninvasive treatments are effective for hemorrhoids. If you have a particularly bad case, if symptoms are not relieved within a few weeks, or if they recur soon after, more in-depth medical treatment may be necessary. There are a number of non-surgical treatments that can be employed, including rubber-band ligation and sclerotherapy (painless hemorrhoid injections).
According to the American Society of Colon and Rectal Surgeons, less than ten percent of those diagnosed with hemorrhoids require surgery to alleviate their symptoms. If you suffer from prolapsed external hemorrhoids, both internal and external hemorrhoids or are suffering from large, symptomatic external hemorrhoids that have not responded to other treatment, your doctor may recommend surgery.
Surgical removal of the tissue, known as a hemorrhoidectomy, almost always relieves all symptoms and patients rarely experience a recurrence. However, it can be a painful procedure and may require a long recovery time. For this reason, you may want to seek a second option from a colon and rectal specialist.
How should I treat hemorrhoid symptoms?
There is no reason to continue suffering from the intense pain, itching and burning that are characteristic of hemorrhoid symptoms. Do not let embarrassment over your condition cause you to suffer in silence. Relief is possible, and often comes in the form of conservative measures that work quickly and are very effective.
Schedule an appointment with Los Angeles Colon and Rectal Surgical Associates or your general practitioner to confirm your diagnosis, rule out a more serious cause, and advise at-home treatments based on your specific condition.