Piles - what to look out for

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The human body undergoes many changes as we get older, some of which can be more uncomfortable than others. Piles, also commonly referred to as haemorrhoids, are one condition that can arise over your lifetime that can make your everyday bodily functions a bit more difficult. Although more common the older you get, it’s possible to get haemorrhoids at practically any stage in life.


What are piles (haemorrhoids)?

Piles are where the blood vessels inside and around your anus have become enlarged, which can cause a number of symptoms that lead to pain and discomfort. Your anus has a natural lining of spongey tissue that’s supplied with blood vessels, known as the anal cushions, which assist your anus with closing after going to the bathroom. However, sometimes the blood vessels can develop into larger lumps, distending further within your anal canal and sometimes appearing outside of the anus.


Are there different types of piles?

Yes – piles are graded depending on whether the lump comes out of the anal canal and how far it emerges out of the anus if it does so. The lower grade piles are considered to be internal piles, while the higher grades are external. External piles, which are closer to the anus, can be especially painful and even more so if it contains a blood clot.

  • First degree piles - may bleed slightly, don’t appear out of your anus.
  • Second degree piles – may appear out of the anus when passing stool, go back into the anal canal afterwards without assistance.
  • Third degree piles – will come out of your anus when passing stool, need to be manually pushed back inside..
  • Fourth degree piles - will always hang down from the anus, cannot be manually pushed back into the anal canal.


Common symptoms of piles

There are a number of different symptoms which are linked to haemorrhoids that you could experience. However, not every case of piles causes pains or has every symptom listed. These can include:

  • Bleeding after you poo – blood will likely be bright red on toilet paper, there may be drips in the toiler, or on the surface of the poo itself.
  • Itchy and/or sore skin around the anus.
  • The feeling that you still need to poo after you’ve just been to the toiler.
  • Slimy discharge of mucus from your anus, either in your underwear or on toilet paper.
  • Pain around the anus.
  • Lumps in or around the anus.

Individual cases of piles will vary in terms of symptoms and these issues can also be attributed to other problems or conditions, e.g. inflammatory bowel disease, anal fissures (tears), etc. If you're experiencing any of these symptoms, then contact your GP for advice in order to properly identify the cause.


Treatments for piles

While mild haemorrhoids can get better by themselves after a few days, more serious cases may need specific treatment. Depending on how severe and disruptive your piles are in your everyday life, you may need hospital treatment in order to help address the issues they’re causing. This can be in the form of non-surgical haemorrhoid treatments, which will likely be used first, or surgical procedures for haemorrhoids if the problems persist.

Piles treatments without surgery include:

  • rubber band ligation, where a band is positioned around your piles in order to make them drop off
  • sclerotherapy, where a liquid is injected directly into your piles so that they shrink
  • electrotherapy, where a gentle electric current is applied to your piles to encourage them to shrink
  • infrared coagulation, where an infrared light is utilised to stop the blood supply to your piles to reduce them in size

If one or more of these methods aren’t effective in treating your haemorrhoids, then surgery may be suggested by your doctor. This could be in the form of an haemorrhoidectomy, stapled haemorrhoidopexy, or haemorrhoidal artery ligation – your doctor will discuss each procedure in detail and assess which one would be best for you in terms of piles removal.


How can you prevent piles

There’s no sure-fire way to prevent yourself from getting piles but there are lifestyle changes and dietary adjustments you can make that can help with the symptoms of piles:

  • Eat a fibre-rich diet, as this can make your stool softer and therefore easier to pass. You’ll put less pressure on the veins within your anus associated with straining to pass poo.
  • Avoid straining when you go to the toilet and allow your stool to pass naturally. This is one of the primary actions which can make piles more likely to develop.
  • Drink lots of fluids to stay properly hydrated while limiting your intake of caffeinated beverages, such as coffee or tea
  • Undertake regular exercise to help your body stay in good physical condition. If you’re experiencing symptoms of piles that make a particular form of exercise difficult, switch to an alternative activity until your symptoms begin to lessen


Ramsay Health Care and Colorectal Treatment

We have a number of experts who can handle issues stemming from anal disorders and issues with this general area. If your doctor has recommended that you undergo a colorectal surgery, then we can help if you’d prefer to opt to do this privately. You can organise a consultation or find out more details on our consultants and procedures by getting in touch with us here.

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