Haemorrhoids, or piles as they’re more commonly known, don’t tend to come up in conversation very often. They remain something of a taboo, which is especially surprising, given that around half the UK’s population will suffer from them at some stage of their lives. Furthermore, piles have been around for centuries. They’re mentioned in the Bible, and the condition is so prevalent, that it even has its own French patron saint, St Fiacre!
If you suffer from the discomfort of piles, be reassured that it is not only a common health problem, but one that can be cured relatively easily.
What Are Haemorrhoids?
According to figures taken from the Germoloids site, approximately 1.7 million people in the UK currently have piles. Yet despite this fact, many still remain unaware as to exactly what haemorrhoids are. Here’s a brief explanation.
Quite simply, piles are swollen, lumpy blood vessels that form around the anus. Lumps vary considerably in size, and can form both inside and outside the bottom. If they are particularly pronounced, they can cause pain and discomfort, particularly when sitting down. They may also bleed, especially if they become irritated.
Who Gets Piles… and What Causes Them?
Anybody can develop piles, but the most commonly affected groups are pregnant women and those over the age of 60.
There are a number of factors that can increase your risk of developing piles. These include:
- If you have trouble passing stools and strain to go to the toilet, this can increase pressure on the blood vessels in the anus, causing bleeding and swelling.
- Regular diarrhoea. Likewise, if the blood vessels in your bottom are regularly irritated by diarrhoea, this can also cause lumps to form.
- Lifting heavy objects. If you regularly lift heavy objects, the repeated straining can cause the blood vessels in the anus to bulge and occasionally tear.
Curing Haemorroids – Measures to Take at Home
Though piles is an unpleasant problem, it’s relatively easy to combat. There are a number of steps you can take at home to improve symptoms and ease discomfort. If you suffer from constipation, make sure that you eat foods that are high in fibre, as this will help to soften your stools, reducing strain when you next go to the toilet.
When you have the urge to empty your bowels, go as soon as possible. Delaying visiting the toilet can cause your stools to become harder and drier. It’s also important to drink plenty of water. Be aware that certain medications can make constipation worse, such as those that contain Codeine.
When Should You Go to the Doctors?
Most incidences of haemorrhoids are relatively mild, and can be relieved by making changes to diet and using over-the-counter creams to relieve soreness and itching.
However, if your piles are severe and are causing you considerable pain, it’s important to see your doctor. For severe cases, surgery is an option, and there have been considerable developments in surgical techniques in recent years, making today’s options relatively pain-free with quick recovery times.
If you notice blood coming from your anus that is dark in colour, it’s important to arrange an appointment with your GP as soon as possible. Blood from piles comes directly from the rectum, and as a result, is bright red in colour. Darker blood may indicate a problem further along the digestive system and may need further investigation by a healthcare professional.
Finally, never be too embarrassed to talk to your doctor or a nurse at your GP’s practice. They have seen plenty of people who share the same worries as you and will be able to help you avoid any unnecessary suffering.
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