You've probably seen commercials for cream to treat hemorrhoids and heard that it's an uncomfortable condition, but many people don't know what this common problem actually is. At Metro Gastroenterology Consultants, Chicago gastroenterologist, Dr. Darrien Gaston, diagnoses this painful, yet treatable for many of his patients. He answers some of your questions here:
What are hemorrhoids?
In short, hemorrhoids are inflamed blood vessels in the rectal region (the opening for the digestive system) of the body. Hemorrhoidal veins are a normal part of the human anatomy, but can become irritated and painful for various reasons. When people refer to hemorrhoids, they are typically talking about the ones that are inflamed.
What are external vs. internal hemorrhoids?
External hemorrhoids are the "classic" presentation; they are close to the opening of the anus and can be extremely painful or itchy due to the vast network of nerves in that area. They can be seen as bulging areas that are darker pink, red or purple than the surrounding skin. Internal hemorrhoids are located in a more distant area of the rectum where there are few nerve endings, so they typically produce no pain, although patients tell their Chicago gastroenterologist that they've noticed blood on the toilet paper after wiping.
What causes hemorrhoids to develop?
The exact cause of hemorrhoids isn't clear to doctors. It is thought that some people have more sensitive or weaker veins in that area as well as others, which leaves people vulnerable to hemorrhoids or varicose veins; this could be an inherited condition. Other factors that can lead to hemorrhoids are obesity, pregnancy or remaining in a standing or sitting position for a long period of time. Straining to have a bowel movement due to constipation is also a common cause.
How are hemorrhoids treated?
After your Chicago gastroenterologist has performed an examination, he will offer some solutions to help ease the itching and discomfort. Often, changes to your diet coupled with warm baths can be enough to reduce the side effects. However, once hemorrhoids develop, they are likely to return. Minimally invasive treatments, as well as surgery, may be needed to seal off or remove recurring hemorrhoids.
If you think you may be dealing with hemorrhoids, we encourage you to call Metro Gastroenterology Consultants in Chicago to make an appointment with Dr. Darrien Gaston. Relief from your discomfort is a phone call away!